Corona Virus Mental Health – HealthflixOnine.com Launches FREE Online Classes March 31, 2020 GMT with 100 World Thought Leaders Sharing Knowledge
Distinguished award-winning book authors, integrative psychiatrists Richard P. Brown, MD and Patricia Gerbarg, MD, join colleagues on-line to support the public during the current public health and mental health crisis.
Drs. Brown and Gerbarg, medical school professors (Columbia University and New York Medical College respectively), are known for their continuing trauma relief work at Ground Zero NYC, and with Syrian, Sudanese, Rwandan, and Rohingya refugees. They have written innumerable research articles and six noteworthy books.
See The Healing Power of the Breath, Shambhala Publications, as a welcome book for these times.
The doctor’s support begins as I write this now, Greenwich Mountain Time (London, UK) and continues for the next two weeks.
The details may be found in the press release I posted on the Internet at the following links.
There are a plethora of books, fiction and non-fiction, on dying, death, and transcendence.
In fact, there are hundreds and hundreds of texts, essays, and plays from time immemorial fascinated with the subject of mortality. They continue to be written.
The focus here is non-fiction books. Though I wonder if some ancient texts could have been based on fantasy. 😉 How would we know?!
Some of the first tomes written about death in part or whole were – The Egyptian Book of the Dead – funeral text from circa 1550 B.C.; The Bible (Moses’ five books circa 1000 B.C. to the first half of first century A.D. – Revelations, Samuel, Chronicles, Job); and, The Tibetan Book of the Dead in the 8th century.
In the last 60 years, since the advent of modern palliative care and hospice via the founding of St. Christopher’s by Dame Cicely Saunders in London (1958), and the publication of psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ On Death and Dying (1969), there has been a vast increase in literature on this subject.
Currently, independent-minded, resourceful boomer generation folks (1946-1964) and the younger gen-x generation, are actively writing about death, dying, green burials, and sacred transitions. Hurrah!!
Aside from my beloved book work, the selected list below is also based on my experiences as a palliative care educator, advocate, hospice volunteer, and end-of-life planner.
Some titles are poignant, others poetic, others practical.
They are mostly experiential in content, from the point of view of physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and lay people of every background and belief system. Each person (or persons) provides a unique perspective with perhaps a concept or idea that may be helpful for your own journey or someone else’s.
Before you search the list below, I wish to recommend The Year of Reading Dangerously Book Club where author guests are interviewed live-online; you the book club member may participate. Most club members work professionally with death and dying; they are located not only in the U.S. but tune in from other countries as well. See my blog with further detail about author, book club founder, and End-of-Life University founder Karen M. Wyatt, MD, hospice physician at https://wellnessshepherd.com/2018/08/05/death-dying-education-a-chat-with-end-of-life-universitys-karen-wyatt-md/
Abbreviated book list by categories:
Connecting with Loved Ones Still Present, and those who have passed
*** Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying by former hospice nurse Sallie Tisdale. I bought this book when it was published (summer 2018) because of its marvelous title, both humorous and practical. I wish I had written it. It represents many of my own takes on life and what I have learned from those who have kindly allowed me to sit with them, attend to them, and listen to their stories. Highly recommended. I hope to meet the author one day. She easily admitted in the opening pages something to the effect of how may I be an expert? I haven’t experienced my own death yet!!
Being Mortal by American/East Indian surgeon Atul Gawande is focused on the talk that most of us should have with loved ones – what do you want if you have a life-limiting illness, how do you wish to deal with modern medicine, and what do you wish for at end-of-life. A reminder to plan ahead, when possible, for yourself and for those you love. Well-written.
Dying Well: Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life by Dr. Ira Byock, California-based palliative care physician. He follows in detail how he lost his beloved parents and other relatives. Through such experiences, he shares, there are opportunities for the person dying and for his or her caregivers to connect and spiritually grow.
The Rainbow Comes and Goes American journalist Anderson Cooper and his amazing 94 year old mother Gloria Vanderbilt write about life, love and loss. Anderson’s father and brother both took their lives. I’ve read the book twice because I appreciated the candor, the tender-hearted humor, and the story-telling.
What To Do When I’m Gone – A Mother’s Wisdom to Her Daughter by Suzy Hopkins and Hallie Bateman (actual mother/daughter team – mother wrote the copy, daughter created the graphics; Bloomsbury USA, April 2018). This is a book I wish I had written or collaborated on. It is funny, poignant, simple, and wise – sharing what is meaningful in life. It also reminds me of another subject dear to my heart – how I always miss my precious mother even though I’ve found ways to keep her by my side. Here is a link to a longer book review written earlier this year… https://bookambassador.com/2018/06/08/what-to-do-when-im-gone-charming-new-book-about-mortality-and-what-we-can-mindfully-leave-behind/
Life-Limiting Illness and Meeting the Concept of Mortality
***Life After the Diagnosis: Expert Advice on Living Well with Serious Illness for Patients and Caregivers by Steven Z. Pantillat, MD, head of the Palliative Care Unit at UCSF Hospital. I am particularly biased, not only because his book is both a compassionate and practical guide, but because I have had the pleasure of a one-on-one with this sensitive soul who has years of dedicated experience. I pray I am not in need of medical care when it is my time, but he is a doctor I would choose.
***The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully by Zen Hospice founder Frank Ostaseski. I don’t know anyone who has read this book, been in Frank’s company, or watched him on You Tube videos who does not instantly relate to his warm, connecting way. I am sad that Zen Hospice, a model center for compassionate care, has closed. I was fortunate enough to visit twice. I highly recommend Frank O’s wise book. When I am in Mexico, the meditation book club I attended this year chose this as one of their books. The Spanish language version is selling well in Mexico and Spain!
***When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinthi I’ve read this book twice and will eventually read it again. An honest, poignant, poetic, compelling exploration of mortality by a 37 year old neurosurgeon whom I wish I had known. Remarkable. Another plea for choosing to live your life to the fullest your last days.
Desire to Die
Choosing to Die by Phyllis Shacter An intimate, compassionate, first-hand account of how her husband with Alzheimer’s chose VSED (voluntary stop eating and drinking) when he felt he was going to loose his quality of life. He died 9 1/2 days later. She gently shares how this must not be viewed as suicide but rather as elective death. VSED is a concept to reflect upon and pray you might not need. Note: There is a documentary film of the same title from BBC Scotland, but it is not about VSED.
American Way of Death Revisited A brave, scathing, investigative review of the American funeral industry by Jessica Mitford. First published 1963; updated in 1996.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by feisty, funny, super articulate Los Angeles-based mortician Caitlin Doughty, founder of the Order of the Good Death. A call to return to the “old ways”, natural ways, with dignified, sacred rituals honoring those who have passed, and more.
Title to be added here when I am introduced to a well-researched book about sacred green funerals and green burials.
During and After Death Rituals
Sacred Dying by theologian and founder of the Sacred Dying Foundation, Megory Anderson A well-conceived book offering many options. Excellent pull quotes in the margins and an appendix with a variety of prayers, poetry, and sacred texts. She is currently working on a second book for 2019 release.
The Craft of Compassion at the Bedside of the Ill aka Conspiracies of Kindness by Michael Ortiz Hill, hospice nurse, rescue worker, Buddhist practitioner, and an initiated medicine man with the tribal people of Zimbabwe. Loving, deep, spiritual. Five stars on Amazon.
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying “There is no greater gift of charity you can give than helping a person to die well.” – Sogyal Rinpoche, monk and author of this 1992 modern version of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. I might phrase it another way… I find the gift comes from patients. In any event, it is a human right to die comfortably, in a dignified way, according to the wishes of the person you are attending. We might be guides or witnesses; the journey belongs exclusively to the dying. Before and after rituals are described in the Tibetan material as well as consciousness after death in the bardo, the interval between death and the next rebirth.
Goodreads.com is an excellent place to search for more books.
If you go to Amazon.com and search books on death and dying, there are over 20 pages of books to choose from. Some are mentioned above, other titles include Dying A Memoir by Australian Cory Taylor (a favorite of a NY Times reviewer – I like the beautiful vintage book cover with sweet birds and the beginning best. She and a group with illness discuss ways to out themselves so they have fall back – none of them end up choosing to die by hemlock or other method); Sherwin Nuland’s How We Die, Terri Daniel’s Embracing Death: A New Look at Grief, Gratitude, and God; Stephen Levine’s A Year to Live (a concept I like – living every day of one year as if it were your last), and social worker Henry Fersko-Weiss’ Caring for the Dying: The Doula Approach to a Meaningful Death.
My apologies to those of you whose books are not included – so many worthy books to choose from, and many as yet unread.
Note: Because I am a student of mortality, and a book shepherd, please note how I unabashedly admit I would welcome guiding an author, medical professional or not, for publication on any of the subjects above 😉 Thank you!!!
Socrates on death (470-399 B.C.)
“To fear death, my friends, is only to think ourselves wise, without being wise: for it is to think that we know what we do not know. For anything that men can tell, death may be the greatest good that can happen to them: but they fear it as if they knew quite well that it was the greatest of evils.” This brave and humorous man was ironically sentenced to death by drinking hemlock for his “threatening” philosophies. Shortly before his final breath, it is written Socrates described his death as a release of his soul from his body.
Here’s a book I wish I had written, collaborated on, or been the book shepherd or marketer for. It is beautifully produced and illustrated. It has a fine (perfect) title and an ideal cover (cover brighter than in the photo below), and, just the right amount of content. It combines my love of literature (sharing about what’s meaningful and poignant in life), and my devotion as an end-of-life guide, doula, and planner. It also reminds me of another subject dear to my heart – how I always miss my precious mother even though I’ve found ways to keep her by my side.
California-based mother-daughter duo Suzy Hopkins (former editor and reporter) and Hallie Bateman (illustrator) have written and designed an authentic, charming, sometimes humorous ode to mortality including memories we leave behind after we have made our physical departure.
The book is What to Do When I’m Gone – A Mother’s Wisdom to Her Daughter (Bloomsbury USA, April 2018)
I had the pleasure of meeting and engaging with the author mother and her illustrator daughter at Skylight Books in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles in May 2018. Every seat was filled for this public chat and book signing. Attendees paid close attention to the subject. The discussion also included the profound connections most mother and daughters have, and how such connections seem to endure for generations.
The concept for the book? Hallie shared how she suffered a nightmare about loosing her mother. Four years later, after much pleading, her mother was convinced to write how Hallie could survive without continuing earthly contact.
Mother Suzy shared it wasn’t easy to write the book. She was overcome with emotion and cried, often.
Some might wonder… how could the subject of anyone’s passing be positive?
One possible answer: The subject contributes to the growing national and worldwide dialogue (at palliative care centers, hospitals, hospices, Death Cafes – see http://www.deathcafe.com – and more) about making friends with eventual death, asking ourselves what we wish to do before our demise. The book is suggesting… let’s talk about it.
When you read the endearing prose with instructions, and savor the sentimental graphics, you’ll get the picture, literally and subliminally. There is also a fair amount of humor as you can (barely) see in my photo shot of the cemetery below where the tombstone reads “I love the idea of people talking about me after I’m gone.”
We will all make our transitions one day. If we are mindful, we can assist by being good models for our children, godchildren, siblings, adopted families, friends, and other loved ones.
I recommend this book. As the back cover suggests, “it is a guide to daily living, both practical and sublime!!”
Are you attracted to beautiful, eye-catching, original book covers? I know I am.
Every year at the Guadalajara Book Fair I make a point of stopping by the Libros del Zorro Rojo (Red ZorroBooks) stand, a publishing house with offices in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City. I invariably spend much longer than I had planned to, lured by the brilliance before me.
Here below is some eye candy witnessed at their colorful location in December 2017…
The fine artwork for the Emily Dickinson book above is by international award-winning French-Canadian illustrator Isabelle Arsenault. See http://www.isabellearsenault.com
La Vaca Independiente is an educational foundation in Mexico City which promotes art as education. See http://lavaca.edu.mx/Acerca.html
Grupo Planeta, with offices in Mexico City, Spain, and satellite Latin American nations, offers a list of Mexican historical titles and recent book covers at the link below…
Over 700 authors participated in this year’s Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL-Feria Internacional del Libro), considered the second largest book fair in the world following the world’s oldest literary gathering, the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Honored authors were Paul Auster of the U.S. (nominated for this year’s Booker Prize), and French born social justice journalist and author Elena Poniatowska of Mexico, now 88 years old but looking 50-60 years young.
French author and filmmaker Emmanuel Carrere received this year’s Premio FIL de Literature en Lenguas Romances (Literary Prize for Romance Languages), Latin America’s most important literary prize worth $150,000 USD.
Chilean author and actress Nona Fernandez won the Premio de Literatura Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz for her novel set during the Pinochet dictatorship which, according to the jury, expressed “emotions of an entire nation with respect to a dark and shameful past.”
I attended the FIL to view non-fiction Body/Mind/Spirit and wellness books, the area I devote myself to as a book shepherd. Again this year I represented Spanish language book rights for authors and met with various publishing houses.
Here below is a quick view of some stands and titles I saw for my work…
Dr. Paul Kalanthi’s poetic and memorable When Breath Becomes Air got a bashing when its Spanish title became The Good Doctor with a cover that doesn’t seem to match its sensitive and meaningful content. Both title and cover are examples of cultural differences showing how much I have yet to learn. ?#@!!! See the Spanish version below which was well featured during the FIL.
I was pleased to see Zen Hospice founder Frank Osteseski’s The Five Invitations, a healing Buddhist approach to death and dying published by Oceano.
The fair took place Saturday, November 25 thru December 3. The nine days will included more than 750,000 visitors (several days are open to the public at minimal cost), 1,900 publishing houses from 41 countries, and 700+ hours of cultural programming. This year’s honored guest was the City of Madrid with exhibits and activities sharing its art, cinema, literature, music.
Amazon.com opened its first brick & mortar store at Century City’s Westfield Mall in Los Angeles on October 3, 2017. The over 5,000 square foot wood-floored space is at 10250 Santa Monica Blvd. Tel. (310)734-5949 Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
I managed to visit the store October 7 to scout for psychology and social science books as comps for a book I am shepherding that will be published in late spring 2018.
It was quiet for a Saturday. Young guides asked if it was my first visit and then prompted me to use an Amazon.com app to identify book prices as no costs are marked.
New books were promoted beside long-time best sellers in spaces organized by genre – fiction, psychology, etc.
Once you’ve chosen your merchandise – books, cards, coloring books, knickknacks, you proceed to the cashier.
I have only been to the Century City store once. I find I’m still ordering from Amazon on-line even if I have to pay for postage.
Note: Amazon recently hired Steve Kessel as VP in charge of all brick and mortar operations including Amazon Books, Whole Foods, etc. with the goal of re-inventing how customers shop in stores. Let’s see how this will evolve in a space currently without much eye candy. Or do we absolutely have to have eye candy and more choices?!!
I still miss my all-time favorite LA bookstore, the Bodhi Tree, formerly housed on Melrose Avenue. It closed five years ago.
The Bodhi Tree first opened in 1970 and quickly became a haven for spiritual seekers. Over the years it hosted well-known writers and thought leaders from the Body/Mind/Spirit world.
The new venture, incubating since the store closure, is completely on-line with new and antiquarian books. The experience is not quite the same without incense burning and hot cinnamon tea to sip. But let’s see how this will evolve. Every new invention requires time.
The on-line store also offers sacred Buddhist and Hindu treasures for the home, wellness beauty products, and healing items. You can find the metaphysical mercantile at http://www.BodhiTree.com or by writing email@example.com.
Here below you will find a link to an article from the Rare Book Hub with commentary by its editor Bruce McKinney about Marc Sena Carrel, an antiquarian book dealer based in the San Francisco Bay Area who is divesting of his business – Chinese and Japanese arts and antiquities books, Asian art prints, European and American art books, and other collectibles on art, archaeology, and design.
The November 1, 2017 article includes Marc Sena Carrel’s story about how he plans to exit the bookseller business.
*The last name of Mr. Carrel is the same as mine. That is no mere coincidence. He is my brother and I am proud to mention his life long passion for collecting fine books and his decision to sell what he so efficiently and diligently has found for appreciative readers.
How do you find a book club? Where are book clubs? What are the possible benefits?
Goodreads.com lists 710 groups with diverse interests in countries as far flung as Malaysia and as close as Mexico.
Clubs are focused on innumerable subjects – business, feminism, films based on books, gardening, LGBT, memoir, politics, romance novels, science fiction, Japanese thrillers, YA (Young Adult fiction), those that have won awards, etc.
There used to be clubs on radio and TV you could listen to, participating only as a reader – The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America Book Club, NPR’s Book Club of the Air with Ray Suarez, and even a “Wake-Up Reading” Club in Spanish hosted by Jorge Ramos on Univision.
Now, there are special book news reports on TV (mostly PBS), as well as podcasts that stream 24/7 on on-line radio programs.
In June of this year the American Library Association inaugurated, with actress Sarah Jessica Parker, a new book club, a national book club. See http://www.bookclubcentral.org as well as the live video link from ABC News in the reference section below. The Book Club Central link will show you how to register for the newsletter and club if interested. I imagine most of the recommended reading will be similar to Oprah or Costco picks, award-winning fiction with original voices.
But for those of you who love reading, AND those of you who enjoy social engagement and dialogue over listening to radio or TV reviews/interviews, there are book clubs, probably in your own community.
photo from livebreathedecor.com
(If the home above were mine, I would invite book club members to meet. I’d add comfy pillows to the wicker love seat, another club chair, a sofa. I’d distribute books, serve tea, and delight in the company and the exchange).
The easiest ways to learn about local clubs are to ask local writers, writers groups, and librarians; look on-line for book groups at http://www.MeetUp.com (search by city, state, country); search community bulletin boards and activities listed in newspapers; or, Google what you wish to find. And if there isn’t a club that matches your preferences, perhaps you can start one.
In August of 2016 an enterprising Canadian accountant, retired, decided to start a non-fiction book club at Lake Chapala, Mexico, about an hour south of Guadalajara, the country’s second largest city. His plan was to discover and read engaging English-language books, and, attract members of the community who represented diverse nationalities, experiences, and opinions.
“In a world of growing polarization and conflict, the members of the Ajijic Book Club, in a spirit of celebrating the oneness of humanity, seek to engage in civil dialogue with each other especially when confronted by deeply held opposing views,” states the founder.
Even though some of the residents at the lake are snowbirds, living only six months a year in Mexico, others reside full-time, up to and including residents who are published authors.
To discuss various subjects the Ajijic Book Club has gathered psychotherapists (one an author), a lawyer, an American MD (also author) who worked for the World Health Organization, a businessman (also author) who started a hospice in Canada, a non-profit administrator from the states who became a yoga teacher, a Canadian English literature professor born and raised in Germany, a retired Canadian foreign service officer, an American hospice nurse, and the founder, Dutch born but raised in Nova Scotia and Calgary, among other members.
A Disappearance in Damascus by Deborah Campbell journalist, winner of the prestigious Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust award for 2016. The book video can be viewed at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSl5BqSfbmI
Benefits of book clubs?Meeting people in your community, exchanges on subjects you are passionate about, a way to expose your book if you are an author, a way to keep your mind sharp no matter where you are living on the planet.
Ex-pat (not a term I favor) book clubs around the world, which include not only Americans but Aussies, Brits, Canadians and other nationalities, can be found in Abu Dhabi, Australia, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London, Paris, Singapore, The Hague, Tokyo, and a myriad of other places. The Paris meetup calls itself the Paris Anglophone Book Club. It has over 2,000 members.
The 30th Guadalajara International Book Fair, also known as FIL (Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara) took place November 26 to December 4, 2016 at the Guadalajara Convention Center in Mexico.
Approximately 650 writers from around the world registered to attend, sign books, or speak. Forty-four countries were represented.
The fair was dedicated to Latin America as opposed to one specific city or country. In 2017, FIL has announced that Madrid (as in Spain) will be the honored guest. No other details offered.
Bookstores and book publisher/distributors filled two huge pavillions, one domestic and one international at FIL, the largest Spanish language book fair in the world.
Norman Manea, born in 1936, won the $150,000 (USD) FIL Literary Award. Manea, who was born in Romania and is considered that country’s premiere writer, was a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. He has been nominated more than once for a Nobel prize. His themes are the Wandering Jew, identity, and isolation. He lives in New York City and you can read more about him at http://www.NormanManea.com.
I especially liked visiting Nirvana Books (Mexico City), which as you may guess from its name focuses on Body, Mind, Spirit books. The main publishers represented were Editorial Kairos, Ediciones Obelisco, and Editorial Sirio from Spain. A good number of the titles were Spanish translations of books by American authors.
Other Body/Mind/Spirit books were found at Ediciones Urano, Grupo Planeta (Paidos), Lectorum (Prana), and Oceano.
I like the enticing slogan for Grupo Planeta , Creemos en Los Libros, We Believe in Books.
Arte de Mexico always displays fabulous folkloric works from around the country as well as gorgeous coffee table books.
Gandhi Books is a popular book chain in Mexico. They attend each year and have stores in Guadalajara.
In December 2016, the senate of Mexico approved the used of medical marijuana, a controversial subject in the nation for years. Legalization awaits other approvals.
For all you garden lovers… a new book, released in October, with a charming title… Gardenista.
In my work with health and wellness authors I have come to find gardens more healing than ever before – other than being in a beautiful place to walk and sit, one can meditate, restore oneself, feel oneself, and remember those who are alive and who have passed. Sacred gardens, and every other day gardens are especially important at hospitals, palliative care centers, and around hospice buildings, yoga shalas, and our homes. See the revolving photos of client Carol Cumes’ Chakra Gardens at https://www.willkatika.com/7-chakra-gardens .
See review of Gardenista from Alan of Diesel Bookstores, California, below…
Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces
by Brian Evenson From the team who gave us the bestselling book of carefully considered interiors, Remodelista, comes its logical extension to the home’s exterior Gardenista. “Carefully considered” does not mean formal or stuffy, think more of classically-casual instead. Think of it as both inspiration and expert advice in a book which can serve both as a starting point, and later on a reference manual. – Alan
The book can be purchased at Amazon.com, $25 hardcover, $12 e-edition. There is also a web site for the book, http://www.gardenista.com .