Recommended Reading for Rehabilitation Clinicians

Are you (or will you soon be) a speech, occupational, or physical therapist? Looking for some great books to dive into? These are some of our favorites!

Hallucinations
by Oliver Sacks

Have you ever seen something that wasn’t really there? Heard someone call your name in an empty house? Sensed someone following you and turned around to find nothing?

Hallucinations don’t belong wholly to the insane. Much more commonly, they are linked to sensory deprivation, intoxication, illness, or injury. People with migraines may see shimmering arcs of light or tiny, Lilliputian figures of animals and people. People with failing eyesight, paradoxically, may become immersed in a hallucinatory visual world. Hallucinations can be brought on by a simple fever or even the act of waking or falling asleep, when people have visions ranging from luminous blobs of color to beautifully detailed faces or terrifying ogres. Those who are bereaved may receive comforting “visits” from the departed. In some conditions, hallucinations can lead to religious epiphanies or even the feeling of leaving one’s own body.

Humans have always sought such life-changing visions, and for thousands of years have used hallucinogenic compounds to achieve them. As a young doctor in California in the 1960s, Oliver Sacks had both a personal and a professional interest in psychedelics. These, along with his early migraine experiences, launched a lifelong investigation into the varieties of hallucinatory experience.

Here, with his usual elegance, curiosity, and compassion, Dr. Sacks weaves together stories of his patients and of his own mind-altering experiences to illuminate what hallucinations tell us about the organization and structure of our brains, how they have influenced every culture’s folklore and art, and why the potential for hallucination is present in us all, a vital part of the human condition.

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's
by John Elder Robison

Ever since he was small, John Robison had longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits—an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother in them)—had earned him the label “social deviant.” No guidance came from his mother, who conversed with light fixtures, or his father, who spent evenings pickling himself in sherry. It was no wonder he gravitated to machines, which could, at least, be counted on.

After fleeing his parents and dropping out of high school, his savant-like ability to visualize electronic circuits landed him a gig with KISS, for whom he created their legendary fire-breathing guitars. Later, he drifted into a “real” job, as an engineer for a major toy company. But the higher Robison rose in the company, the more he had to pretend to be “normal” and do what he simply couldn’t: communicate. It wasn’t worth the paycheck.

It was not until he was forty that an insightful therapist told him he had the form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. That understanding transformed the way Robison saw himself—and the world.

Look Me in the Eye is the moving, darkly funny story of growing up with Asperger’s at a time when the diagnosis simply didn’t exist. A born storyteller, Robison takes you inside the head of a boy whom teachers and other adults regarded as “defective,” who could not avail himself of KISS’s endless supply of groupies, and who still has a peculiar aversion to using people’s given names (he calls his wife “Unit Two”). He also provides a fascinating reverse angle on the younger brother he left at the mercy of their nutty parents—the boy who would later change his name to Augusten Burroughs and write the bestselling memoir Running with Scissors.

Ultimately, this is the story of Robison’s journey from his world into ours, and his new life as a husband, father, and successful small business owner—repairing his beloved high-end automobiles. It’s a strange, sly, indelible account—sometimes alien, yet always deeply human.

The Word Escapes Me: Voices of Aphasia
by Ellayne Ganzfried, Mona Greenfield

A loss for words...something we all have experienced. Imagine living each day trying to find the words, understand what is being said, having trouble reading and writing. Welcome to the world of aphasia. This book provides much needed insight into this devastating communication disorder through the eyes of clinicians, caregivers and persons with aphasia.
Increase your knowledge of aphasia and learn strategies to increase public awareness of aphasia. Explore innovative approaches to aphasia rehabilitation and groups. Read personal and candid stories of frustration, courage, hope, love and acceptance. Words can escape a person but compassion, respect and humor will always remain.

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

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should.

Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon, reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced. Nursing homes, devoted above all to safety, battle with residents over the food they are allowed to eat and the choices they are allowed to make. Doctors, uncomfortable discussing patients' anxieties about death, fall back on false hopes and treatments that are actually shortening lives instead of improving them.

In his bestselling books, Gawande has fearlessly revealed the struggles of his profession. Now he examines its ultimate limitations and failures--in his own practices as well as others'--as life draws to a close. Riveting, honest, and humane, Being Mortal shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life--all the way to the very end.

Every Note Played
by Lisa Genova

An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. That was eight months ago.

Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce—his divorce.

He knows his left arm will go next.

Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn’t moved on. Karina is paralyzed by excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it.

When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.

We Know How This Ends: Living while Dying
by Bruce H. Kramer, Cathy Wurzer

2010 had been a very good year for Bruce H. Kramer. But what began as a floppy foot and leg weakness led to a shattering diagnosis: he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS is a cruel, unrelenting neurodegenerative disease where the body’s muscles slowly weaken, including those used to move, swallow, talk, and ultimately breathe. There is no cure; ALS is a death sentence.

When death is a constant companion, sitting too closely beside you at the dinner table, coloring your thoughts and feelings and words, your outlook on life is utterly transformed. The perspective and insights offered in We Know How This Ends reveal this daily reality and inspire a way forward for anyone who has suffered major loss and for anyone who surely will. Rather than wallowing in sadness and bitterness, anger and denial, Kramer accepted the crushing diagnosis. The educator and musician recognized that if he wanted a meaningful life, embracing his imminent death was his only viable option. His decision was the foundation for profound, personal reflection and growth, even as his body weakened, and inspired Kramer to share and teach the lessons he was learning from ALS about how to live as fully as possible, even in the midst of devastating grief.

At the same time Kramer was diagnosed, broadcast journalist Cathy Wurzer was struggling with her own losses, especially the slow descent of her father into the bewildering world of dementia. Mutual friends put this unlikely pair—journalist and educator—together, and the serendipitous result has been a series of remarkable broadcast conversations, a deep friendship, and now this book.

Written with wisdom, genuine humor, and down-to-earth observations, We Know How This Ends is far more than a memoir. It is a dignified, courageous, and unflinching look at how acceptance of loss and inevitable death can lead us all to a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home
by Jessica Fechtor

At 28, Jessica Fechtor was happily immersed in graduate school and her young marriage, and thinking about starting a family. Then one day, she went for a run and an aneurysm burst in her brain. She nearly died. She lost her sense of smell, the sight in her left eye, and was forced to the sidelines of the life she loved.

Jessica’s journey to recovery began in the kitchen as soon as she was able to stand at the stovetop and stir. There, she drew strength from the restorative power of cooking and baking. Written with intelligence, humor, and warmth, Stir is a heartfelt examination of what it means to nourish and be nourished."

Woven throughout the narrative are 27 recipes for dishes that comfort and delight. For readers of M.F.K.Fisher, Molly Wizenberg, and Tamar Adler, as well as Oliver Sacks, Jill Bolte Taylor, and Susannah Cahalan, Stir is sure to inspire, and send you straight to the kitchen.

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery
by Sam Kean

Early studies of the functions of the human brain used a simple method: wait for misfortune to strike-strokes, seizures, infectious diseases, lobotomies, horrendous accidents-and see how the victim coped. In many cases survival was miraculous, and observers could only marvel at the transformations that took place afterward, altering victims' personalities. An injury to one section can leave a person unable to recognize loved ones; some brain trauma can even make you a pathological gambler, pedophile, or liar. But a few scientists realized that these injuries were an opportunity for studying brain function at its extremes. With lucid explanations and incisive wit, Sam Kean explains the brain's secret passageways while recounting forgotten stories of common people whose struggles, resiliency, and deep humanity made modern neuroscience possible.

The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science
by Norman Doidge

An astonishing new science called neuroplasticity is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the human brain is immutable. Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Norman Doidge, M.D., traveled the country to meet both the brilliant scientists championing neuroplasticity and the people whose lives they’ve transformed - people whose mental limitations or brain damage were seen as unalterable. We see a woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole, blind people who learn to see, learning disorders cured, IQs raised, aging brains rejuvenated, stroke patients learning to speak, children with cerebral palsy learning to move with more grace, depression and anxiety disorders successfully treated, and lifelong character traits changed. Using these marvelous stories to probe mysteries of the body, emotion, love, sex, culture, and education, Dr. Doidge has written an immensely moving, inspiring book that will permanently alter the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential.

Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism
by Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is a gifted animal scientist who has designed one third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the United States. She also lectures widely on autism—because Temple Grandin is autistic, a woman who thinks, feels, and experiences the world in ways that are incomprehensible to the rest of us.

In this unprecedented book, Grandin delivers a report from the country of autism. Writing from the dual perspectives of a scientist and an autistic person, she tells us how that country is experienced by its inhabitants and how she managed to breach its boundaries to function in the outside world. What emerges in Thinking in Pictures is the document of an extraordinary human being, one who, in gracefully and lucidly bridging the gulf between her condition and our own, sheds light on the riddle of our common identity.

Inside the O'Briens
by Lisa Genova

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

To Root & To Rise: Accepting Brain Injury
by Carole J Starr

An inspiring, interactive book and workbook to help brain injury survivors and caregivers navigate grief and loss, find their strengths and move forward with a changed life.

As a brain injury survivor herself, author Carole Starr knows the depth of grief and loss of self that accompany brain injury, the challenge of coping with symptoms that are misunderstood by many and the peace that can come from accepting a new life and a new self. Carole describes the journey in a way that survivors, caregivers and professionals can relate to and learn from.

Tips and strategies include:

  • Recognizing what acceptance is/isn’t and why it’s important for brain injury survivors
  • Getting through the challenging first year after brain injury
  • Moving past denial
  • Coping with the loss of one’s old life and sense of self
  • Creating a new life as a brain injury survivor
  • Documenting and celebrating progress
  • Responding to insensitive comments by others
  • Finding something positive in the negative that is brain injury
  • Letting go of the past and moving forward

Knowing that many survivors struggle with reading and remembering what they read, Carole made the chapters in To Root & To Rise short. The font size in the print version is larger than average, to improve readability. There are also spaces between each paragraph, to reduce the overwhelmed feeling that can come from looking at too much text.

To Root & To Rise is also a workbook, with optional questions in each chapter that encourage readers to take Carole’s strategies and apply them to their own experience. These questions can be answered on one’s own, with family members, with rehabilitation professionals, or with a brain injury support group.

To Root & To Rise is a unique resource for anyone living with a traumatic brain injury, post-concussion syndrome, stroke, brain tumor or other brain trauma, for family caregivers and friends of brain injury survivors, for brain injury support groups and for medical and neuro-rehabilitation professionals.

Motivational Interviewing in Health Care: Helping Patients Change Behavior
by Stephen Rollnick, William R. Miller, Christopher C. Butler

Much of health care today involves helping patients manage conditions whose outcomes can be greatly influenced by lifestyle or behavior change. Written specifically for health care professionals, this concise book presents powerful tools to enhance communication with patients and guide them in making choices to improve their health, from weight loss, exercise, and smoking cessation, to medication adherence and safer sex practices. Engaging dialogues and vignettes bring to life the core skills of motivational interviewing (MI) and show how to incorporate this brief evidence-based approach into any health care setting. Appendices include MI training resources and publications on specific medical conditions.

Brain Injury Survival Kit: 365 Tips, Tools and Tricks to Deal with Cognitive Function Loss
by Cheryle Sullivan

This practical, easy-to-use book gives brain injury survivors, their families, and their loved ones the strategies they need to boost brain function and live well. The book is a compendium of tips, techniques, and life-task shortcuts that author Cheryle Sullivan, a medical doctor and brain injury survivor, has compiled from personal experience. With a different tip for each day of the year, the book explains balancing a checkbook, using medication alarms, compensating for impaired memory, locating things that have been put away, finding the right word, concentration exercises, and much more. From basic principles to unique solutions for saving time and energy, this book is packed with helpful information for those coping with the special challenges of this surprisingly widespread condition.

Left Neglected
by Lisa Genova

Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermom in Welmont, the affluent Boston suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob, faithful nanny, and three children - Lucy, Charlie, and nine-month-old Linus.

Between recruiting the best and brightest minds as the vice president of human resources at Berkley Consulting; shuttling the kids to soccer, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son’s teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it’s a wonder this over-scheduled, over-achieving Harvard graduate has time to breathe.

A self-confessed balloon about to burst, Sarah miraculously manages every minute of her life like an air traffic controller. Until one fateful day, while driving to work and trying to make a phone call, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her jam-packed life come to a screeching halt.

A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world, and for once, Sarah relinquishes control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. Without the ability to even floss her own teeth, she struggles to find answers about her past and her uncertain future.

Now, as she wills herself to regain her independence and heal, Sarah must learn that her real destiny - her new, true life - may in fact lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets. And that a happiness and peace greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
by Naoki Higashida, K.A. Yoshida (Translator), David Mitchell (Translator)

Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one, at last, have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.

Using an alphabet grid to painstakingly construct words, sentences, and thoughts that he is unable to speak out loud, Naoki answers even the most delicate questions that people want to know. Questions such as: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” (Naoki’s answer: “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”) With disarming honesty and a generous heart, Naoki shares his unique point of view on not only autism but life itself. His insights—into the mystery of words, the wonders of laughter, and the elusiveness of memory—are so startling, so strange, and so powerful that you will never look at the world the same way again.

Dying Well
by Ira Byock

Nobody should have to die in pain. Nobody should have to die alone. This is Ira Byock's dream, and he is dedicating his life to making it come true. Dying Well brings us to the homes and bedsides of families with whom Dr. Byock has worked, telling stories of love and reconciliation in the face of tragedy, pain, medical drama, and conflict. Through the true stories of patients, he shows us that a lot of important emotional work can be accomplished in the final months, weeks, and even days of life. It is a companion for families, showing them how to deal with doctors, how to talk to loved ones—and how to make the end of life as meaningful and enriching as the beginning.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
by Jean-Dominique Bauby, Jeremy Leggatt (Translator)

‘Locked-in syndrome: paralysed from head to toe, the patient, his mind intact, is imprisoned inside his own body, unable to speak or move. In my case, blinking my left eyelid is my only means of communication.’

In December 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor-in-chief of French ‘Elle’ and the father of two young children, suffered a massive stroke and found himself paralysed and speechless, but entirely conscious, trapped by what doctors call ‘locked-in syndrome’. Using his only functioning muscle – his left eyelid – he began dictating this remarkable story, painstakingly spelling it out letter by letter.

His book offers a haunting, harrowing look inside the cruel prison of locked-in syndrome, but it is also a triumph of the human spirit.

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying
by Nina Riggs

An exquisite memoir about how to live--and love--every day with "death in the room," from poet Nina Riggs, mother of two young sons and the direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the tradition of When Breath Becomes Air.

"We are breathless, but we love the days. They are promises. They are the only way to walk from one night to the other."

Nina Riggs was just thirty-seven years old when initially diagnosed with breast cancer--one small spot. Within a year, the mother of two sons, ages seven and nine, and married sixteen years to her best friend, received the devastating news that her cancer was terminal.

How does one live each day, "unattached to outcome"? How does one approach the moments, big and small, with both love and honesty?

Exploring motherhood, marriage, friendship, and memory, even as she wrestles with the legacy of her great-great-great grandfather, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nina Riggs's breathtaking memoir continues the urgent conversation that Paul Kalanithi began in his gorgeous When Breath Becomes Air. She asks, what makes a meaningful life when one has limited time?

Brilliantly written, disarmingly funny, and deeply moving, The Bright Hour is about how to love all the days, even the bad ones, and it's about the way literature, especially Emerson, and Nina's other muse, Montaigne, can be a balm and a form of prayer. It's a book about looking death squarely in the face and saying "this is what will be."

Especially poignant in these uncertain times, The Bright Hour urges us to live well and not lose sight of what makes us human: love, art, music, words.

One Hundred Names for Love: A Memoir
by Diane Ackerman

No other writer can blend the science of the brain with the love of language like Diane Ackerman. In this extraordinary memoir, she opens a window into the experience of wordlessness—the language paralysis called aphasia. In narrating the recovery of her husband, Paul West, from a stroke that reduced his vast vocabulary to a single syllable, she evokes the joy and mystery of the brain’s ability to find and connect words. Deeply rewarding to readers of all kinds, Ackerman has given us a literary love story, accessible insight into the science and medicine of brain injury, and invaluable spiritual sustenance in the face of life’s myriad
physical sufferings.

Still Alice
by Lisa Genova

Still Alice is a compelling debut novel about a 50-year-old woman's sudden descent into early onset Alzheimer's disease, written by first-time author Lisa Genova, who holds a Ph. D in neuroscience from Harvard University.

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer's disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away. In turns heartbreaking, inspiring and terrifying, Still Alice captures in remarkable detail what's it's like to literally lose your mind.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales
by Oliver Sacks

If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self—himself—he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it. Dr. Oliver Sacks recounts the stories of patients struggling to adapt to often bizarre worlds of neurological disorder. Here are people who can no longer recognize everyday objects or those they love; who are stricken with violent tics or shout involuntary obscenities; who have been dismissed as autistic or retarded, yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents. If inconceivably strange, these brilliant tales illuminate what it means to be human.

Tell Me Everything You Don't Remember: The Stroke That Changed My Life
by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee

A memoir of reinvention after a stroke at age thirty-three.

Christine Hyung-Oak Lee woke up with a headache on the morning of December 31, 2006. By that afternoon, she saw the world—quite literally—upside down. By New Year’s Day, she was unable to form a coherent sentence. And after hours in the ER, days in the hospital, and multiple questions and tests, her doctors informed her that she had had a stroke. 

For months afterward, Lee outsourced her memories to a journal, taking diligent notes to compensate for the thoughts she could no longer hold on to. It is from these notes that she has constructed this frank and compelling memoir.

In a precise and captivating narrative, Lee navigates fearlessly between chronologies, weaving her childhood humiliations and joys together with the story of the early days of her marriage; and then later, in painstaking, painful, and unflinching detail, the account of her stroke and every upset—temporary or permanent—that it caused. 

Lee illuminates the connection between memory and identity in an honest, meditative, and truly funny manner, utterly devoid of self-pity. And as she recovers, she begins to realize that this unexpected and devastating event has provided a catalyst for coming to terms with her true self—and, in a way, has allowed her to become the person she’s always wanted to be.

Aphasia, My World Alone
(William Beaumont Hospital Series in Speech and Language Pathology)
by Helen Harlan Wulf

Sudden and unexpected loss of communication is a terrifying, dehumanizing experience that tears away at the essence of life itself.

For decades, speech and language pathologists have sought to better understand it. The term aphasia is used to generally describe a condition whereby speech and language skills are partially or totally lost. Aphasia is the result of damage to or disturbance of those areas in the brain responsible for speech and language functions.

A tremendous variety of specific impairments can occur to plague the individual with aphasia. Impairments of comprehension, reading disturbances, writing difficulties, and confusion with numerical
processes can accompany oral language problems such as word loss, loss of sentence structure, and confusion in utilizing word
forms. . .

To understand aphasia at this level alone is to miss the full nature of this terribly debilitating condition. For the effect that aphasia has on the person who must bear its consequences is a profound area of interest that is not always understood and. . . seldom considered. Aphasia, My
World Alone has been written to help open this often closed door. . .

Helen Wulf has put down on paper a depth of feeling, thought, and analysis concerning the aphasic experience that personalizes the disorder in a gripping, readable manner. She delves so deeply into
her aphasia that the reader is actually drawn up into the agony and frustration that is the daily burden of the aphasic individual.

Speech pathologists who actively work with aphasic patients will immediately recognize the value of Helen Wulf's analysis of her aphasia. Her reactions to various forms of treatment will also be beneficial, especially to those who are allowing certain aphasics to determine which speech and language deficits are most debilitating and, consequently, which area should be emphasized in the initial stages of treatment.

Family and friends of the aphasic will be warmly introduced to those inner thoughts so long hidden from their ears. . . This book. . . should be extremely useful in family counseling. . . As many speech pathologists have indicated, the need for "family treatment" is immediate, real, and often of critical importance. . .

As the field of aphasia rehabilitation continues its growth ... our ability to help the aphasic and his family will expand. It is felt that in its small way, this book will help make aphasia less of a world alone.

The Best Care Possible: A Physician's Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life
by Ira Byock

A palliative care doctor on the front lines of hospital care illuminates one of the most important and controversial ethical issues of our time on his quest to transform care through the end of life.

It is harder to die in this country than ever before. Statistics show that the vast majority of Americans would prefer to die at home, yet many of us spend our last days fearful and in pain in a healthcare system ruled by high-tech procedures and a philosophy to "fight disease and illness at all cost."

Dr. Ira Byock, one of the foremost palliative-care physicians in the country, argues that end-of-life care is among the biggest national crises facing us today. In addressing the crisis, politics has trumped reason. Dr. Byock explains that to ensure the best possible care for those we love-and eventually ourselves- we must not only remake our healthcare system, we must also move past our cultural aversion to talking about death and acknowledge the fact of mortality once and for all.

Dr. Byock describes what palliative care really is, and-with a doctor's compassion and insight-puts a human face on the issues by telling richly moving, heart-wrenching, and uplifting stories of real people during the most difficult moments in their lives. Byock takes us inside his busy, cutting-edge academic medical center to show what the best care at the end of life can look like and how doctors and nurses can profoundly shape the way families experience loss.

Like books by Atul Gawande and Jerome Groopman, The Best Care Possible is a compelling meditation on medicine and ethics told through page-turning, life or death medical drama. It is passionate and timely, and it has the power to lead a new kind of national conversation.

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

Four simple phrases -- "Please forgive me", "I forgive you", "Thank you", and "I love you" -- carry enormous power. In many ways, they contain the most powerful words in our language. These four phrases provide us with a clear path to emotional wellness; they guide us through the thickets of interpersonal difficulties to a conscious way of living that is full of integrity and grace.

In The Four Things That Matter Most, Dr. Ira Byock, an international leader in palliative care, teaches us how to practice these life-affirming words in our day-to-day lives. Too often we assume that the people we love really know we love them. Dr. Byock reveals the value of stating the obvious and provides insights into how we burden ourselves by hanging on to old grudges unconsciously and unnecessarily. He shows us how to avoid living with those awkward silences and uncomfortable issues that distance us from the people we love and erode our sense of well-being and joy. His insights and stories help us to forgive, appreciate, love, and celebrate one another more fully.
The inspiring stories in The Four Things That Matter Most demonstrate the usefulness of the Four Things in a wide range of life situations. They also show that a degree of emotional healing is always possible and that we can experience a sense of wholeness even in the wake of family strife, personal tragedy, divorce, or in the face of death. With practical wisdom and spiritual punch, The Four Things That Matter Most gives us the language and guidance to honor and experience what really matters most in our lives every day.

Gratitude
by Oliver Sacks

“My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
—Oliver Sacks

No writer has succeeded in capturing the medical and human drama of illness as honestly and as eloquently as Oliver Sacks.

During the last few months of his life, he wrote a set of essays in which he movingly explored his feelings about completing a life and coming to terms with his own death.

“It is the fate of every human being,” Sacks writes, “to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”

Together, these four essays form an ode to the uniqueness of each human being and to gratitude for the gift of life.

Man's Search for Meaning
by Viktor E. Frankl, Harold S. Kushner (Foreword), William J. Winslade (Afterword), Isle Lasch (Translator)

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Based on his own experience and the stories of his patients, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. At the heart of his theory, known as logotherapy, is a conviction that the primary human drive is not pleasure but the pursuit of what we find meaningful. Man's Search for Meaning has become one of the most influential books in America; it continues to inspire us all to find significance in the very act of living.


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