The Reading List: Death & Dying

Welcome to The Reading List, a new occasional series where we provide some recommended reading on a topic!

Note: This post has been edited and reposted to include additional titles.

Hospice Health Foundation, an organization based here in Portsmouth, has hosted five Death Cafes. A worldwide phenomenon, the Death Cafe is a community event where participants gather to eat, drink and discuss their inevitable demise.

The library jumped in on the third Death Cafe, and has since helped to host three of these fabulous events. We were so honored to participate in a safe, compassionate, and thoughtful space for discussion!

Organizers and facilitators submitted their picks for a reading list. These books all come recommended by professionals in the fields of hospice, palliative care, mental health and education. Linked titles are owned by the library – click to visit our catalog and place a hold.

Our Death Cafes are held on a quarterly basis. Stay tuned for the next date!

The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford

Before We Say Goodbye by Sean Davison

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death by Joan Halifax & Ira Byock

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care by Angelo E. Volandes

Curtains by Tom Jokinen

Dying Well by Ira Byock

Final Conversations by Maureen Keeley & Julie Yingling

Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying by Derek Humphry

Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie Callanan & Patricia Kelley

The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living by Ira Byock

Good Medicine: How to Turn Pain into Compassion with Tonglen Meditation by Pema Chodron

Gratitude by Oliver Sachs

The Grace in Dying by Kathleen Dowling Singh

Grave Matters by Mark Harris

Hospice Voices: Lessons for Living at the End of Life by Eric Lindner

Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death by Katy Butler

Love Your Life to Death by Yvonne Heath

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

The New Natural Death Handbook by Nicholas Albery & Stephanie Wienrich

No Death, No Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh

On Death & Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

On Dreams & Death by Marie Louise von Franz

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Speaking of Dying by Louis Heyse-Moore

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Talking About Death Won’t Kill You by Virginia Morris

The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead by David Shields

This Republic Of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust

Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Who Dies by Stephen Levine

Working Stiff by Judy Melinek & T. J. Mitchell

LauraLaura Horwood-Benton is PPL’s Public Programming & Community Relations Librarian. She enjoys literary and speculative fiction, vegan baking, drawing and traveling.  If you have suggestions for future book reviews OR library events, email her at

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