Useful Books

The Association for Palliative Medicine have received some feedback from our members on various reading materials, which they feel other members would benefit from.

Should you wish to add to the list below, please contact Compleat Secretariat.



Dear Life: A Doctor’s Story of Love, Loss and Consolation – Rachel Clarke

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of Your Life in My Hands comes this vibrant, tender and deeply personal memoir that finds light and love in the darkest of places.

As a specialist in palliative medicine, Dr Rachel Clarke chooses to inhabit a place many people would find too tragic to contemplate. Every day she tries to bring care and comfort to those reaching the end of their lives and to help make dying more bearable.

Rachel’s training was put to the test in 2017 when her beloved GP father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She learned that nothing – even the best palliative care – can sugar-coat the pain of losing someone you love.

And yet, she argues, in a hospice there is more of what matters in life – more love, more strength, more kindness, more joy, more tenderness, more grace, more compassion – than you could ever imagine. For if there is a difference between people who know they are dying and the rest of us, it is simply this: that the terminally ill know their time is running out, while we live as though we have all the time in the world.

Dear Life is a book about the vital importance of human connection, by the doctor we would all want by our sides at a time of crisis. It is a love letter – to a father, to a profession, to life itself.

(Description taken from Amazon)

How We Die – Sherwin B. Nuland

There are many books intended to help people deal with the trauma of bereavement, but few which explore the reality of death itself. Sherwin B. Nuland – with over thirty years’ experience as a surgeon – explains in detail the processes which take place in the body and strips away many illusions about death. The result is a unique and compelling book, addressing the one final fact that all of us must confront.

(Description taken from Amazon)


Palliative Care Formulary (PCF 8). 8th Edition (UK)

Editors – Andrew Wilcock, Paul Howard, Sarah Charlesworth

Covering all aspects of palliative care for the pharmacist, this guide includes advice on using licensed drugs for unlicensed purposes, specific drugs and their names and specialist prescribing for particular disorders, analgesics and infections.

(Description taken from Blackwells)


Oxford Handbook of Palliative Care

Max Watson, Stephen Ward, Nandini Vallath, Jo Wells, Rachel Campbell

The Oxford Handbook of Palliative Care returns for a third edition, maintaining the concise yet comprehensive format suited to the busy practitioner for quick access to key information, and fully updated to reflect changes in the palliative care landscape.

Featuring an increased emphasis on non-malignant diseases such as dementia, this authoritative text combines evidence-based care with the bedside experience of experienced palliative care professionals to give the reader a complete overview of the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of care for the end-of-life patient. Symptom management is covered in detail, with updated formulary tables and syringe driver protocols, and a new chapter on international perspectives to broaden the reader’s perception of methods for delivering end-of-life care.

The third edition of the Oxford Handbook of Palliative Care is the essential companion for all of those working with adults, children, and families with palliative care needs, in both hospital and community settings.

(Description taken from Amazon)



Being Mortal – Atul Gawande (and his Reith lectures on Radio 4, episode 1)

For most of human history, death was a common, ever-present possibility. It didn’t matter whether you were five or fifty – every day was a roll of the dice. But now, as medical advances push the boundaries of survival further each year, we have become increasingly detached from the reality of being mortal. So here is a book about the modern experience of mortality – about what it’s like to get old and die, how medicine has changed this and how it hasn’t, where our ideas about death have gone wrong. With his trademark mix of perceptiveness and sensitivity, Atul Gawande outlines a story that crosses the globe, as he examines his experiences as a surgeon and those of his patients and family, and learns to accept the limits of what he can do.

Never before has aging been such an important topic. The systems that we have put in place to manage our mortality are manifestly failing; but, as Gawande reveals, it doesn’t have to be this way. The ultimate goal, after all, is not a good death, but a good life – all the way to the very end.

Published in partnership with the Wellcome Collection

(Description taken from Amazon)




When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?

Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

(Description taken from Amazon)



With the End in Mind – Kathryn Mannix

Told through a series of beautifully crafted stories taken from nearly four decades of clinical practice, her book answers the most intimate questions about the process of dying with touching honesty and humanity. She makes a compelling case for the therapeutic power of approaching death not with trepidation but with openness, clarity and understanding.

With the End in Mind is a book for us all: the grieving and bereaved, ill and healthy. Open these pages and you will find stories about people who are like you, and like people you know and love. You will meet Holly, who danced her last day away; Eric, the retired head teacher who, even with Motor Neurone Disease, gets things done; loving, tender-hearted Nelly and Joe, each living a lonely lie to save their beloved from distress; and Sylvie, 19, dying of leukaemia, sewing a cushion for her mum to hug by the fire after she has died.

These are just four of the book’s thirty-odd stories of normal humans, dying normal human deaths. They show how the dying embrace living not because they are unusual or brave, but because that’s what humans do. By turns touching, tragic, at times funny and always wise, they offer us illumination, models for action, and hope. Read this book and you’ll be better prepared for life as well as death.

(Description taken from Amazon)



The Palliative Care Adult Network Guidelines

Ian Back, Max Watson, Peter Armstrong, Craig Gannon & Nigel Sykes

The PANG Guidelines have been available for palliative care professionals since 2002. Now in the fourth edition the goal of the guidelines remains the same, – to provide evidence based, practical advice to those looking after patients at the end of life.

The fourth edition has been updated by an authorship team of over 80 specialists in Palliative care from nine regions across the UK. PANG is a not for profit collaboration aimed at sharing key information to help support patients and families. The Kindle edition allows the Guidelines to be accessed and navigated on a wide range of handheld devices using the search and find tools that come with the free Kindle app. Since the first edition of PANG in 2002 more than 300,000 printed versions have been distributed across the UK and beyond.

The same care and attention to provide an informative friend for those supporting patients and families in the palliative context has been applied to the fourth edition as to the previous three and it is hoped it will prove to be as useful a friend to hard pressed professionals. Please note that this publication has two front covers clearly separating the Adult and Paediatric elements of the book.

(Description taken from Amazon)