A wise and reassuring guide for confronting death.

THE LOST ART OF DYING

REVIVING FORGOTTEN WISDOM

A physician draws wisdom from a late medieval text to transform our thoughts and fears about dying.

When a terminal patient’s life is prolonged with desperate medical procedures, that individual’s final moments may be sadly compromised. Yet reliance on modern medical interventions has become increasingly common in our culture. As Dugdale, the director of Columbia University’s Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, writes, “in failing to die well, we fail to live well.” Beginning with a case study example, the author relates how woeful such a failure can be. The patient was an elderly man approaching the end of a lengthy battle with cancer, and no one in his family was prepared to acknowledge his approaching death, insisting that every effort be made to keep him alive. In his final hours, he suffered through several unnecessary resuscitations, resulting in a long, painful death. Such examples led Dugdale to seek out a more compassionate alternative. In her studies, she was inspired by the holistically grounded approach to dying examined in ars moriendi (“the art of dying”), a 15th-century text that contains intriguing reflections on death as an essential aspect of living requiring careful preparation. “Although more than six hundred years have passed, I have been repeatedly struck by the need for a similar handbook today,” writes Dugdale. “That’s why I wrote this book. Although some of the original ars moriendi content is less relevant to the diverse and global twenty-first century, it nevertheless offers rich wisdom on how we might die well.” Throughout the book, Dugdale balances her clinical experience with an openly holistic mindfulness, and she thoughtfully expands on the relevant lessons of ars moriendi: acknowledging our human finitude, or what it means to be mortal; embracing a meaningful community; facing a fear of death; and giving consideration to the decision of whether to die at home or in a hospital or other setting.

A wise and reassuring guide for confronting death.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293263-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

more