cover image The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life

The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life

Katy Butler. Scribner, $26 (388p) ISBN 978-1-5011-3531-6

Journalist Butler offers a straightforward, well-organized, nondepressing guide to managing the run-up to one’s inevitable demise. Each chapter features different end-of-life–related themes and exemplary real-world anecdotes of how people cope with different age-related difficulties, with an emphasis on the mental as well as physical aspects of coping with old age and the associated infirmities. Butler’s advice is commonsensical without being platitudinous or folksy. One point she particularly stresses is the wisdom of staying away from hospitals when possible. She uses vivid terms to illustrate her points, such as “House of Cards” to refer to a fragile state of health, “common in people in their nineties or in the mid to later stages of dementia.” No doubt to the delight of nonagenarians everywhere, Butler’s advice to them is not cautionary but rather to indulge in pleasurable activities as much as possible: what she calls “enjoying your red velvet cake.” Free of platitudes, Butler’s voice makes the most intimidating of processes—that of dying—come across as approachable. Her reasonable, down-to-earth tone makes for an effective preparatory guide to the permanent holiday upon which everyone eventually embarks. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Feb.)