Usually I read books of fiction for pleasure and my non-fiction book choices are mostly limited to keeping up with news, politics and (sad but true) pop culture gossip. This past month, however, I read three wonderful books that had appeared on the New York Times list of 100 Notable Books of 2014. They are quite different from each other and all three are riveting.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
The title tells the tale. Dr. Gawande writes about the difficult decisions we mortals face at the end of our lives. Whether the decision involves a change of residence, accepting unwanted help, or deciding which options are preferable in one’s final days, Gawande’s sensitivity, personal experience, and broad research has produced a very readable and important book.
I wish I could write like Daphne Merkin. Or at least have a cup of coffee with her. This book’s essays cover topics from the ridiculous to the sublime: troubled movie stars, fashion and makeup, psychoanalysis, writing women, and dating and mating. These pieces are funny, sad, insightful and at times laugh-out-loud hilarious. My only concern after reading this book is what on earth does my battered Baggalini purse say about me?
The New Yorker cartoonist has published a book of four-color cartoons, photos and other memorabilia that chronicle the lives and eventual decline and death of her parents. If this sounds depressing, it isn’t. In Chast’s able telling, the frustration, sadness and moments of astounding hilarity that are all part of helping aging parents make a wonderful book. My favorite line: “Where in the five Stages of Death, is EAT A TUNA SANDWICH?”