Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir


David Rieff - 2007
    Rieff's brave, passionate, and unsparing witness of the last nine months of her life, from her initial diagnosis to her death, is both an intensely personal portrait of the relationship between a mother and a son, and a reflection on what it is like to try to help someone gravely ill in her fight to go on living and, when the time comes, to die with dignity.Rieff offers no easy answers. Instead, his intensely personal book is a meditation on what it means to confront death in our culture. In his most profound work, this brilliant writer confronts the blunt feelings of the survivor -- the guilt, the self-questioning, the sense of not having done enough.And he tries to understand what it means to desire so desperately, as his mother did to the end of her life, to try almost anything in order to go on living.Drawing on his mother's heroic struggle, paying tribute to her doctors' ingenuity and faithfulness, and determined to tell what happened to them all, "Swimming in a Sea of Death" subtly draws wider lessons that will be of value to others when they find themselves in the same situation.

My Incredibly Wonderful, Miserable Life: An Anti-Memoir


Adam Nimoy - 2008
    Today, he's waking up in a sleeping bag on an air mattress in a two-bedroom apartment with no furniture thinking, "How the hell did I get here?"A thirty-year battle with drug addiction, three career changes, one divorce, a major mid-life crisis, and countless AA meetings later, he tells his cautionary -- and very funny -- tale.In this frankly humble and hilarious anti-memoir, Adam Nimoy shares the incredibly wonderful, miserable truth about life as a newly divorced father, a forty-something on the L.A. dating scene, a recovering user, and a former lawyer turned director turned substitute teacher...in search of his true self. And, oh yeah, the wonderful, miserable truth about growing up the son of a pop culture icon.In a city where appearing perfect is a way of life, Adam Nimoy doesn't mince words. He's been rushed by crazed Star Trek fans at a carnival, propositioned by his father's leading ladies, promised by his own teenage daughter that she never wants to see him again, and fired by famous television producers for his temper.Wonderful? Sometimes. Miserable? Occasionally. Survivable? Stay tuned...

Let Not the Waves of the Sea


Simon Stephenson - 2011
    If it is a story of grief, it is also a story of hope and of the unexpected places where healing can be found. Simon's journey takes him from Edinburgh in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, to Downing Street in London, to Thailand and the island where his brother died, to the scene of an ancient tsunami on the north-west coast of the United States, and to the town where he and his brother's favourite childhood film was made. Along the way there is heartbreak, dengue fever, Greek mythology, and hard physical labour in the tropical heat, but there is also memory, redemption and humour as well.

Trauma: My Life as an Emergency Surgeon


James Cole - 2011
    Cole's harrowing account of his life spent in the ER and on the battlegrounds, fighting to save lives. In addition to his gripping stories of treating victims of gunshot wounds, stabbings, attempted suicides, flesh-eating bacteria, car crashes, industrial accidents, murder, and war, the book also covers the years during Cole's residency training when he was faced with 120-hour work weeks, excessive sleep deprivation, and the pressures of having to manage people dying of traumatic injury, often with little support.  Unlike the authors of other medical memoirs, Cole trained to be a surgeon in the military and served as a physician member of a Marine Corps reconnaissance unit, United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and on a Navy Reserve SEAL team.  From treating war casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq to his experiences as a civilian trauma surgeon treating alcoholics, drug addicts, criminals, and the mentally deranged, TRAUMA is an intense look at one man's commitment to his country and to those most desperately in need of aid.

What We Have: A Family's Inspiring Story About Love, Loss, and Survival


Amy Boesky - 2010
    For once, she was almost able to shake the terrible fear that had gripped her for as long as she could remember. Women in her family had always died young-from cancer-and she and her sisters had grown up in time's shadow. It colored every choice they made and was beginning to come to a head now that each of them approached thirty-five-the deadline their doctors prescribed for having preventive surgery with the hope they could thwart their family's medical curse. But Amy didn't want to dwell on that now. She wanted to plan for a new baby, live her life. And with the appreciation for life's smallest pleasures, she did just that. In What We Have, Amy shares a deeply transformative year in her family's life and invites readers to join in their joy, laughter, and grief. In a true story as compelling as the best in women's fiction, written with the sagacity of Joan Didion and the elegance of Amy Bloom, Amy Boesky's journey celebrates the promise of a full life, even in the face of uncertainty.

Cleaning the Kingdom: Insider Tales of Keeping Walt's Dream Spotless


Ken Pellman - 2015
    The authors are two former Disneyland Custodial cast members, and they share their experiences keeping the Magic Kingdom clean for guests from all over the world while working with an assortment of characters. You will encounter hilarious, unbelievable, heartbreaking, and magical stories. Documenting a time of growth and controversy at the Disneyland Resort, this book answers the question, "Just how do they keep the place so clean?"

Don't Let Me Down: A Memoir


Erin Hosier - 2019
    Erin Hosier’s coming-of-age was full of contradiction. Born into the turbulent 1970s, she was raised in rural Ohio by lapsed hippies who traded 1960s rock ‘n’ roll for 1950s-era Christian hymns. Her mother’s newfound faith was rooted in a desire to manage her husband’s mood swings, which could alternately fill the house with music or with violence.All the while, Jack was larger than life to his adoring daughter. Full of conflict, their complex relationship set the tone for three decades of Erin’s relationships with men; the Beatles provided the soundtrack. Jack bonded with Erin over their iconic songs, even as they inspired her to question authority—both his and others’.Don’t Let Me Down is about a brave girl trying to navigate family secrets and tragedies and escape from small-town small-mindedness. It is a searing and often funny exploration of how women first see themselves through the lens of a parent’s love, and of the ties that bind us to our childhood heroes, who ultimately lead us to ask that most profound of questions: Is love really all you need?

Wild and Precious Life


Deborah Ziegler - 2016
    Brittany asked me to do the video with her, to support her. The first words my daughter uttered on the film were, “The thoughts that go through your mind when you find out you have so little time is everything you need to say to everyone that you love.” Wearing a simple black sweater, her face already rounded and puffy from taking prescribed steroids, her once waist-length hair now grazing her shoulders after a craniotomy, Brittany described why she was choosing to end her life by her own hand rather than waiting for her brain tumor to rob her of everything that defined who she was. In this poignant, powerful book, Deborah Ziegler makes good on the promise she made to her only child: that she would honor her daughter and carry forward her legacy by sharing their story and offering hope, empowerment, and inspiration to the growing tens of millions of people who are struggling with end-of-life issues.Wild and Precious Life is not a book about death, however. Instead, it is a book about a life well-lived. What emerges in this compassionate and lyrical text is an unforgettable story of how, while we can’t control the hand fate delivers, we can decide how we play it. It is also a thoughtful exploration of America’s ongoing struggle with end-of-life issues and most importantly, a touching tribute to the enduring power of a mother and daughter’s love.

Sanctuary: A Memoir


Emily Rapp Black - 2021
    The line made Rapp Black pause. Her first child, a boy named Ronan, had died from Tay-Sachs disease before he turned three years old, an experience she wrote about in her second book, The Still Point of the Turning World. Since that time, her life had changed utterly: She left the marriage that fractured under the terrible weight of her son's illness, got remarried to a man who she fell in love with while her son was dying, had a flourishing career, and gave birth to a healthy baby girl. But she rejected the idea that she was leaving her old life behind--that she had, in the manner of the mythical phoenix, risen from the ashes and been reborn into a new story, when she still carried so much of her old story with her. More to the point, she wanted to carry it with her. Everyone she met told her she was resilient, strong, courageous in ways they didn't think they could be. But what did those words mean, really?This book is an attempt to unpack the various notions of resilience that we carry as a culture. Drawing on contemporary psychology, neurology, etymology, literature, art, and self-help, Emily Rapp Black shows how we need a more complex understanding of this concept when applied to stories of loss and healing and overcoming the odds, knowing that we may be asked to rebuild and reimagine our lives at any moment, and often when we least expect it. Interwoven with lyrical, unforgettable personal vignettes from her life as a mother, wife, daughter, friend, and teacher, Rapp Black creates a stunning tapestry that is full of wisdom and insight.

We Know How This Ends: Living while Dying


Bruce H. Kramer - 2015
    Kramer. But what began as a floppy foot and leg weakness led to a shattering diagnosis: he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS is a cruel, unrelenting neurodegenerative disease where the body’s muscles slowly weaken, including those used to move, swallow, talk, and ultimately breathe. There is no cure; ALS is a death sentence.When death is a constant companion, sitting too closely beside you at the dinner table, coloring your thoughts and feelings and words, your outlook on life is utterly transformed. The perspective and insights offered in We Know How This Ends reveal this daily reality and inspire a way forward for anyone who has suffered major loss and for anyone who surely will. Rather than wallowing in sadness and bitterness, anger and denial, Kramer accepted the crushing diagnosis. The educator and musician recognized that if he wanted a meaningful life, embracing his imminent death was his only viable option. His decision was the foundation for profound, personal reflection and growth, even as his body weakened, and inspired Kramer to share and teach the lessons he was learning from ALS about how to live as fully as possible, even in the midst of devastating grief.At the same time Kramer was diagnosed, broadcast journalist Cathy Wurzer was struggling with her own losses, especially the slow descent of her father into the bewildering world of dementia. Mutual friends put this unlikely pair—journalist and educator—together, and the serendipitous result has been a series of remarkable broadcast conversations, a deep friendship, and now this book.Written with wisdom, genuine humor, and down-to-earth observations, We Know How This Ends is far more than a memoir. It is a dignified, courageous, and unflinching look at how acceptance of loss and inevitable death can lead us all to a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

The Enders Hotel: A Memoir


Brandon R. Schrand - 2008
    But to one family who bought it as an attempt to renew themselves it was home, a place they desperately tried to hold on to and yet, after seventeen years of living there, the very place from which they wanted to escape. Growing up under its leaking roof, Brandon R. Schrand watched a cast of broken characters pass through the hotel doors—an alcoholic artist, a forgotten boxing champ, an ex-con, a homeless family—and tried to find his own identity among those revolving faces. Haunted by a father he had never seen, he tested the faces of those drifters for familiarity. Winner of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize, The Enders Hotel reveals the promises and warnings of western boomtown life—stories of alcoholism, murder, betrayal, hope, and finally, redemption.

The Power of Two: A Twin Triumph Over Cystic Fibrosis


Isabel Stenzel Byrnes - 2007
    But for twin girls with the disease, what began as a family’s stubborn determination grew into a miracle.            The tragedy of CF has been touchingly recounted in such books as Frank Deford’s Alex: The Life of a Child, but The Power of Two is the first book to portray the symbiotic relationship between twins who share this life-threatening disease through adulthood. Isabel Stenzel Byrnes and Anabel Stenzel tell of their lifelong struggle to pursue normal lives with cystic fibrosis while grappling with the realization that they will die young. Their story reflects the physical and emotional challenges of a particularly aggressive form of CF and tells how the twins’ bicultural heritage—Japanese and German—influenced the way they coped with these challenges.            Born in 1972, seventeen years before scientists discovered the genetic mutation that causes CF, Isabel and Anabel endured the daily regimen of chest percussion, frequent doctor visits, and lengthy hospitalizations. But they tell how, in the face of innumerable setbacks, their deep-seated dependence on each other allowed them to survive long enough to reap the benefits of the miraculous lung transplants that marked a crossroads in their lives: “We have an old life—one of growing up with chronic illness—and a new life—one of opportunities and gifts we have never imagined before.” In this memoir, they pay tribute to the people who shaped their experience.            The Power of Two is an honest and gripping portrayal of day-to-day health care, the impact of chronic illness on marriage and family, and the importance of a support network to continuing survival. It conveys an important message to both popular and professional readers as it addresses key psychosocial issues in chronic illness throughout the sufferer’s lifespan and illuminates the human side of advances in biotechnology.            Even as gene therapy and stem cell research increase the chances for eradicating CF, this stirring account portrays its effects on one family that refused to give up. These two remarkable sisters have much to teach about the power of perseverance—and about the ultimate power of hope.

Joy Enough: A Memoir


Sarah McColl - 2019
    Hallmann, Brooklyn Rail) in Sarah McColl’s breathtaking testimonial to the joy and pain of loving well. When her mother, Allison, was diagnosed with cancer, McColl dropped everything—including her on-the-rocks marriage—to return to the family farmhouse and fix elaborate meals in the hope of nourishing her back to health. In “thoughtful and finely crafted prose” (Martha Anne Toll, NPR.org) McColl reveals Allison to be an extraordinary woman of infinite love for her unruly brood of children. Mining her dual losses “with humor and charm” (Rachel Kong, New York Times Book Review) to confront her identity as a woman, McColl walks lightly in the footsteps of the woman who came before her. “A gorgeous, painful, exhilarating debut” (Kirstin Valdez-Quade), Joy Enough is an essential guide to clinging fast to the joy left behind, for readers of Ann Hood and Jenny Offill.

The Widower's Notebook: A Memoir


Jonathan Santlofer - 2018
    After a frenzied 911 call, an ambulance racing across Manhattan, and his ominous hours pacing Bellevue's ER waiting room, the doctor delivers the fateful news. Consumed by his loss, Jonathan desperately tries to pursue life as he always had--teaching writing at Pratt, social engagements, and working on his art--but finds it nearly impossible to admit to anyone, even his beloved daughter Doria, even to himself, just how much he is hurting.And as Jonathan grieves and heals, he must establish exactly what happened to Joy. It is over a year later when he finally finds the courage to return to the hospital and unravel the medical mystery. Written with great warmth and unexpected humor, The Widower's Notebook is the portrait of a marriage, an account of the complexities of finding oneself single again after losing your spouse, and of the enduring power of familial love.

Furnishing Eternity: A Father, a Son, a Coffin, and a Measure of Life


David Giffels - 2018
    So when he enlisted his eighty-one-year-old dad to help him build his own casket, he thought of it mostly as an opportunity to sharpen his woodworking skills and to spend time together. But the unexpected deaths of his mother and, a year later, his best friend, coupled with the dawning realization that his father wouldn’t be around forever for such offbeat adventures—and neither would he—led to a harsh confrontation with mortality and loss. Over the course of several seasons, Giffels returned to his father’s barn in rural Ohio, a place cluttered with heirloom tools, exotic wood scraps, and long memory, to continue a pursuit that grew into a meditation on grief and optimism, a quest for enlightenment, and a way to cherish time with an aging parent. With wisdom and humor, Giffels grapples with some of the hardest questions we all face as he and his father saw, hammer, and sand their way through a year bowed by loss. Furnishing Eternity is “an entertaining memoir that moves through gentle absurdism to a poignant meditation on death and what comes before it” (Publishers Weekly). “Tender, witty and, like the woodworking it describes, painstakingly and subtly wrought. Furnishing Eternity continues Giffels’s unlikely literary career as the bard of Akron, Ohio…Only a very skilled engineer of a writer can transform the fits and starts, the fitted corners and sudden gouges of the assembly process into a kind of page-turning drama” (The New York Times Book Review).