Alec Recommends

One of the many things I love about the public library is that the collection contains and reflects our whole lived experience. And that must include the end of life. I want to share with you just some of the many useful resources available on this universal and profoundly personal subject. My focus is popular and secular works on the shelves, but of course there is much more to discover. 

Book jacket for On Death & Dying
On Death & Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

This came out about fifty years ago and really changed the conversation about dying as she introduced the five stages of grief into western popular culture: denial, anger, bargaining, despair, acceptance. These are practical tools to help us find our way when we are most vulnerable. Our understanding of grief is evolving you will find many more in the collection.



Book jacket for Changing the Way We Die
Changing the Way We Die: Compassionate End of Life Care and the Hospice Movement by Fran Smith and Sheila Himmel

About a generation ago the Hospice Movement began in North America. In contrast to a medical mindset that saw death as failure, this movement embraces it as the natural culmination of life, providing a safe and peaceful environment, as pain free as possible, with compassionate caregivers and loved ones present. Our own Hospice Peterborough is a wonderful example of this.  


What Happens When a Loved One Dies by Jillian Roberts
Book jacket for What Happens When A Loved One Dies

We owe thanks to our collection librarians past and present for building these resources and that includes the Children’s department. There are many relevant works here and most of them talk about the natural world (e.g. the rhythms of the seasons) and animals, because kids get animals, especially their pets. The life cycles of animals can be a gentle starting point for caregivers in talking with children. 

Book jacket for How Animals Grieve
How Animals Grieve by Barbara King

Speaking of animals, anthropologist Barbara King’s How Animals Grieve contains many accounts of both wild and domestic animal behaviour that can surely be understood as expressions of love, and the price of love, grief. From dogs and cats, corvids and chimpanzees to, most famously, elephants and cataceans, her descriptions of non-human animal grief are moving and convincing. (Her notes provide many great resources on this growing field of study).

Book jacket for Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs
Will My Cat Eat my Eyeballs: Big Questions From Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty

A mortician who answers children’s real questions with humour and insight. Such questions as: Will my cat eat my eyeballs when I die? (maybe). Will my hair and nails keep growing? (no). If I ate a big bag of popcorn and then was cremated, what would happen? (sadly, nothing). Can I be buried with my hamster? (maybe). We can find humour in speaking about end of life and works such as this are good medicine. 

Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow by Nilsen Anders
Book jacket for Don't Go Where I Can't Follow

We must have hundreds of memoirs in the collection and I’ll bet every one speaks to the end of life; one example is this beautiful graphic memoir. Anders tells his story with hand written text, quirky drawings, photographs and illustrations that will break and strengthen your heart. 

That’s the gift the artists, scientists and activists we’ve collected give us: in telling their stories we can find our own. As King writes: ‘I find hope and solace in the stories in these pages. May you find hope and solace in them as well.’