These books on grief attempt to encompass the messiness of death and loss
After 19 months in a pandemic, the global death toll is now five million, according to figures released from Johns Hopkins University. Experts believe, including those from the World Health Organization, that the true toll may be significantly higher than the official figures suggest.
Grief is an emotion we’ve had to process collectively throughout this worldwide crisis. All of us have become familiar with it, as it slowly touches the lives of those dear to and around us. For many, we make space for grief through literature. “Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it,” writes Joan Didion in A Year of Magical Thinking, which she penned after the abrupt death of her husband, screenwriter and novelist John Gregory Dunne.
From contemporary to classic nonfiction, Crying in H Mart to A Grief Observed, here are books that attempt to encompass the messiness of loss and death.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Korean American Michelle Zauner, singer-songwriter of the indie rock group Japanese Breakfast, pens a powerful memoir, which centers around her mother, who she lost to cancer in 2014. With her unapologetic humor and heartwrenching vulnerability, Michelle gives life to their complicated yet intimate mother-daughter relationship, most especially with anecdotes about their shared love of food.
Read the full review of the New York Times Bestseller here.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
An iconic essayist and former Vogue editor, Joan Didion narrates the aftermath of loss, upon her husband’s unexpected death and her daughter Quintana’s brutal illness in The Year Of Magical Thinking. She paints an honest, familiar portrait of marriage and family, who will speak to anyone who has ever loved.
A Grief Observed By C.S. Lewis
Similar to Didion, legendary Christian apologist and writer C.S. Lewis materializes his grief, his “mad midnight moments” after his wife, poet Joy Davidman, passes away. With love, humility and faith—the prominent elements in his library of work—he displays “healthy grief,” as writer Madeliene L’Engle describes it. Lewis gives us permission to admit our own doubts, especially of the eternal aspect, anger and anguish, all parts of the soul’s growth.
Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Expanding on her original piece for The New Yorker, We Should All Be Feminists writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie documents her father’s death, after complications of kidney failure, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged on around the world. With self-awareness, remembrance and hope, she writes as one of the millions of people grieving in self-isolation.
Do Death: For A Life Better Lived by Amanda Blainey
For a quick page-turner from the Do Books series, social activist Amanda Blainey pens a manual on death and how tragic loss can be our greatest educator. In Do Death, she helps us rediscover the power of human connection, inspires us to think and talk about death more openly and empowers us to better prepare for it.
Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief by David Kessler
The world’s foremost expert on grief, David Kessler, who has spent decades teaching about trauma and grief, journeys beyond the classic five stages to discover a sixth—meaning. For devoted fans of the self-help genre, the grief expert shares his hard-earned wisdom and offers a roadmap for those dealing with crushing loss, and paves a way for them to move forward while honoring the dead. Finding Meaning is an inspiring read for anyone struggling to discover how to live after loss.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver