7 of the most moving books on mortality and loss

From inspirational autobiographical recounts and reflective personal essays, to perception-shifting fiction; we’ve curated seven of the most moving, insightful and uplifting books on grief, loss and mortality.

27/09/2018
1 minutes to read

From inspirational autobiographical recounts and reflective personal essays, to perception-shifting fiction; we’ve curated seven of the most moving, insightful and uplifting books on grief, loss and mortality.

A Manual for Heartache

by Cathy Rentzenbrink

Book cover for 9781509824465

This moving, comforting book is full of advice for dealing with the trials that life throws at us, a friendly guide on how to cope with life at its most difficult, from a writer who truly knows. Cathy Retzenbrink’s life changed forever as a teenager when her brother was hit by a car, leaving him in a persistent vegetative state for eight years before he passed away. Cathy draws on her own experiences of the grief and depression that followed to assure the reader that, no matter how bad things may seem, they are not alone and there is always hope.

If Cats Disappeared From The World

by Genki Kawamura

Book cover for 9781509889174

Estranged from his family and with only his cat Cabbage for company, our narrator is shocked to find out he has only months to live. But then the Devil offers him a bizarre deal - one extra day of life in exchange for making one thing disappear from the world. This is a beautifully quirky tale of love, loss and making the most of life while you can.

Gratitude

by Oliver Sacks

Book cover for 9781509822805

In this beautifully written book of essays, Dr Oliver Sacks reflects with gratitude on his long, adventurous life, following a diagnosis of terminal cancer. These uplifting essays give thanks for a fully-lived life, as well as exploring Dr Sacks’ thoughts on growing old and facing his own mortality.

Every Third Thought

by Robert McCrum

Book cover for 9781509815296

Since a near-fatal and life-changing stroke in 1995 at the age of 42, Robert McCrum has had an unavoidable awareness of his own mortality, which has only grown as he’s aged. Now in his sixties, he is finding that his friends are similarly preoccupied - death has become his contemporaries’ every third thought. Full of conversations with brain surgeons, psychologists, hospice workers and poets, this is a deeply personal book about how we can make peace with dying.

Skybound

by Rebecca Loncraine

Book cover for 9781447273868

Rebecca Loncraine was in her mid-thirties when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two years later, after a gruelling schedule of treatment, she flew in a glider for the first time and found a passion which showed her a way to live again. Taking to the skies from the Brecon Beacons to the Southern Alps of New Zealand, Rebecca pushed the boundaries of her fear as she reconnected with the world around her. Although Rebecca passed away in 2016, her book remains a euphoric, moving story  of facing death and learning to live again.

Station Eleven

by Emily St. John Mandel

Book cover for 9781447268970

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Emily St. John Mandel’s novel is a story of love, loss and survival. Moving between pre- and post-apocalyptic narratives, the story centres not just on personal loss, but the loss of culture, society, order, and indeed the world as we know it. As one character explains it, “The more you remember, the more you’ve lost.”

The Blackwater Lightship

by Colm Toibin

Book cover for 9780330389860

The Blackwater Lightship tells the story of the Devereux family - torn apart by a family feud, and reunited by the imminent death of grandson, son and brother Declan. Declan is dying of AIDS, and Dora, her daughter Lily and granddaughter Helen, estranged for years, have come together in Dora’s house by the sea to nurse him. A novel about how grief can rip a family apart, and ultimately bring it together again.