The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life
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About the Author
Katy Butler's is the author of the critically acclaimed Knocking on Heaven's Door, a New York Times Notable Book, shortlisted for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and winner of a Books for a Better Life Award. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, The Best American Science Writing, Scientific American, and The Best American Essays. A finalist for a National Magazine Award, she lives in Northern California.
"This is a book so honest, so insightful and so achingly beautiful that its poetic essence transcends even the anguished story that it tells. Katy Butler's perceptive intellect has probed deeply, and seen into the many troubling aspects of our nation's inability to deal with the reality of dying in the 21st century: emotional, spiritual, medical, financial, social, historical and even political. And yet, though such valuable insights are presented with a journalist's clear eye, they are so skillfully woven into the narrative of her beloved parents' deaths that every sentence seems to come from the very wellspring of the human spirit that is in her."--Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland, author of How We Die: Reflections of Life's Final Chapter
"This is some of the most important material I have read in years, and so beautifully written. It is riveting, and even with parents long gone, I found it very hard to put down. ... I am deeply grateful for its truth, wisdom, and gorgeous stories--some heartbreaking, some life-giving, some both at the same time. Butler is an amazing and generous writer. This book will change you, and, I hope, our society."--Anne Lamott "author of Help, Thanks, Wow "
"Shimmer[s] with grace, lucid intelligence, and solace."--Lindsey Crittenden "Spirituality and Health Magazine "
"[A] deeply felt book...[Butler] is both thoughtful and passionate about the hard questions she raises -- questions that most of us will at some point have to consider. Given our rapidly aging population, the timing of this tough and important book could not be better."--Laurie Hertzel "Minneapolis Star Tribune "
"This braid of a book...examines the battle between death and the imperatives of modern medicine. Impeccably reported, Knocking on Heaven's Door grapples with how we need to protect our loved ones and ourselves."--More Magazine
"A forthright memoir on illness and investigation of how to improve end-of-life scenarios. With candidness and reverence, Butler examines one of the most challenging questions a child may face: how to let a parent die with dignity and integrity. Honest and compassionate..."--Kirkus Reviews
"Katy Butler's science background and her gift for metaphor make her a wonderfully engaging storyteller, even as she depicts one of our saddest but most common experiences: that of a slow death in an American hospital. Knocking on Heaven's Door is a terrible, beautiful book that offers the information we need to navigate the complicated world of procedure and technology-driven health care."--Mary Pipher "author of Reviving Ophelia and Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World "
"Katy Butler's new book--brave, frank, poignant, and loving--will encourage the conversation we, as a society, desperately need to have about better ways of dying. From her own closely-examined personal experience, she fearlessly poses the difficult questions that sooner or later will face us all."--Adam Hochschild "author of King Leopold's Ghost and To End All Wars "
"This is the most important book you and I can read. It is not just about dying, it is about life, our political and medical system, and how to face and address the profound ethical and personal issues that we encounter as we care for those facing dying and death. [This book's] tenderness, beauty, and heart-breaking honesty matches the stunning data on dying in the West. A splendid and compassionate endeavor."--Joan Halifax, PhD, Founding Abbot, Upaya Institute/Zen Center and Director, Project on Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death
"This beautifully written and well researched book will take you deep into the unexplored heart of aging and medical care in America today. With courage, unrelenting honesty, and deepest compassion, ... Knocking on Heaven's Door makes it clear that until care of the soul, families, and communities become central to our medical approaches, true quality of care for elders will not be achieved."--Dennis McCullough "author of My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing "Slow Medicine, '" the Compassionate Approach to Cari "
"Butler's advice is neither formulaic nor derived from pamphlets...[it] is useful, and her challenge of our culture of denial about death necessary...Knocking on Heaven's Door [is] a book those caring for dying parents will want to read and reread. [It] will help those many of us who have tended or will tend dying parents to accept the beauty of our imperfect caregiving."--Suzanne Koven "Boston Globe "
"Knocking on Heaven's Door is more than just a guide to dying, or a personal story of a difficult death: It is a lyrical meditation on death written with extraordinary beauty and sensitivity."--San Francisco Chronicle
"[Knocking on Heaven's Door is] a triumph, distinguished by the beauty of Ms. Butler's prose and her saber-sharp indictment of certain medical habits. [Butler offers an] articulate challenge to the medical profession: to reconsider its reflexive postponement of death long after lifesaving acts cease to be anything but pure brutality."--Abigail Zuger, MD "New York Times "
"This book is filled with deep knowledge and many interesting experiences. It is a guide for staying as healthy and happy as possible while aging, and also shows how important it is to be medically informed and know our rights in the communities where we live, in order to stay in charge of our lives and therefore less afraid of the future. Katy Butler has written a very honest book. I just wish I had read it ten years ago. You can do it now!"
--Margareta Magnusson, author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning
"The Art of Dying Well is a guide to just that: how to face the inevitable in an artful way. Katy Butler has clear eyes and speaks plainly about complicated decisions. This book is chock-full of good ideas."
--Sallie Tisdale, author of Advice for Future Corpses
Praise for Katy Butler and Knocking on Heaven's Door
"No, you won't survive your death, but you can live until the very last moment without the pain and humiliation that inevitably accompany an over-medicalized dying process. Katy Butler shows how, and I am profoundly grateful to her for doing so."
--Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Natural Causes
"This is a book to devour, discuss, dog-ear, and then revisit as the years pass. Covering matters medical, practical, financial and spiritual - and, beautifully, their intersection - Katy Butler gives wise counsel for the final decades of our 'wild and precious' lives. A crucial addition to the bookshelves of those seeking agency, comfort and meaning, The Art of Dying Well is not only about dying. It's about living intentionally and in community."
--Lucy Kalanithi, MD, FACP, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, Stanford School of Medicine
"The Art of Dying Well is the best guidebook I know of for navigating the later stages of life. Katy Butler's counsel is simple and practical, but the impact of this book is profound. A remarkable feat."
--Ira Byock, MD, author of Dying Well and The Best Care Possible, Active Emeritus Professor of Medicine, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
"A better roadmap to the end... combines medical, practical, and spiritual guidance."
--Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe
"In plain English and with plenty of true stories to illustrate her advice, Katy Butler provides a brilliant map for living well through old age and getting from the health system what you want and need, while avoiding what you don't. Armed with this superb book, you can take back control of how you live before you die."
--Diane E. Meier, MD, Director, Center to Advance Palliative Care
"A commonsense path to define what a 'good' death looks like."
"An empowering guide that clearly outlines the steps necessary to avoid a chaotic end in an emergency room and to prepare for a beautiful death without fear."
"Straightforward, well-organized, nondepressing... Free of platitudes, Butler's voice makes the most intimidating of processes--that of dying--come across as approachable. Her reasonable, down-to-earth tone makes for an effective preparatory guide."
"Butler's factual, no-nonsense tone is surprisingly comforting, as are her stories of how ordinary folks confronted difficult medical decisions... Her thoughtful book belongs on the same shelf as Atul Gawande's best-selling Being Mortal and Barbara Ehrenreich's Natural Causes."
--The Washington Post