“There is nothing wrong with you for dying,” palliative care doctor B.J. Miller and Shoshana Berger write in A Beginner’s Guide to the End. “Our ultimate purpose here isn’t so much to help you die as it is to free up as much life as possible until you do.”
Theirs is a clear-eyed and big-hearted action plan for approaching the end of life, written to help readers feel more in control of an experience that so often seems anything but controllable. Their book offers everything from step-by-step instructions for how to do your paperwork and navigate the healthcare system to answers to questions you might be afraid to ask your doctor, like whether or not sex is still okay when you’re sick. You’ll be walked through how to break the news to your employer, whether to share old secrets with your family, how to face friends who might not be as empathetic as you’d hoped, and to how to talk to your children about your will. (Don’t worry: if anyone gets snippy, it’ll likely be their spouses, not them.) There are also lessons for survivors, like how to shut down a loved one’s social media accounts, clean out the house, and write a great eulogy.
An honest, surprising, and detailed-oriented guide to the most universal of all experiences, A Beginner’s Guide to the End is the one book that everyone needs.
B.J. Miller, MD, is an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco where he practices and teaches palliative medicine. He has been profiled in The New York Times Magazine, and interviewed on Super Soul Sunday, The Tim Ferriss Show, and On Being with Krista Tippett, and has spoken at the Aspen Ideas Festival and around the world. He is the author, with Shoshana Berger, of A Beginner’s Guide to the End.
Shoshana Berger is the global editorial director at IDEO, where she has worked on projects ranging from the end of life to modern Judaism to school lunch. She was a senior editor at WIRED, and has written for the New York Times, WIRED, Popular Science, Marie Claire, and Salon. She co founded the DIY design magazine ReadyMade, later turning it into a book, ReadyMade: How to Make (Almost) Everything.
Kisa Heyer is the Chief Executive Officer of Dream Foundation, the only national dream-granting organization for terminally-ill adults and their families, including veterans.