Books for Tough Times

There are times in life when the right book comes along at the right time, and it feels like a tremendous gift. Caring for an elderly or disabled family member is something more Americans are experiencing as the population ages. Here are two highly acclaimed recent books on the subject as well as two classics.

In Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, cartoonist Roz Chast uses the graphic novel format to narrate the years she spent as an only child looking after her parents who lived in their Brooklyn apartment well into their nineties. What makes Chast's book such a stand out is her rare ability to mix humor with sensitivity, expressing the poignancy of coping with the decline of the people we love – but who also drive us crazy sometimes.


What matters most to people in the final stages of life, and how can we honor that? In Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, surgeon Atul Gawande explores his personal and professional experiences with family members and patients who were nearing the end of life. With great insight and empathy, he steps out of the conventional role of the doctor, looking beyond medical options to their goals and priorities. Gawande suggests many ways we can improve the future of caregiving in America.

In the classic realm, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl offers wisdom on living with purpose even during painful times. Frankl, a Viennese doctor, survived several concentration camps during the Holocaust and went on to finish his treatise on logotherapy, a form of therapy designed to help people discover and pursue meaning in their lives. The suffering he endured and witnessed only reinforced his belief that the pursuit of meaning is central to the human condition.

Also rising to the level of a classic in this area is When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner. A rabbi who lost his young son to a rare disease, Kushner was inundated with people seeking his commiseration and guidance: why do bad things happen to good people? Kushner draws upon his study of historic and religious texts to help others process some of life’s most difficult questions.
- Suzanne Summers LaPierre, Kings Park Library 

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