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How We Die NowHow We Die Now

Intimacy and the Work of Dying

Karla Erickson

Narrated by Tracy Hundley

Available from Audible

Book published by Temple University Press

As we live longer and die slower and differently than our ancestors, we have come to rely more and more on end-of-life caregivers. These workers navigate a changing landscape of old age and death that many of us have little preparation to encounter. How We Die Now is an absorbing and sensitive investigation of end-of-life issues from the perspectives of patients, relatives, medical professionals, and support staff.

Karla Erickson immersed herself in the daily life of workers and elders in a Midwestern community for over two years to explore important questions around the theme of “how we die now.” She moves readers through and beyond the many fears that attend the social condition of old age and reveals the pleasures of living longer and the costs of slower, sometimes senseless ways of dying.

For all of us who are grappling with the “elder boom,” How We Die Now offers new ways of thinking about our longer lives.

Karla Erickson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Grinnell College. She is the author of The Hungry Cowboy: Service and Community in a Neighborhood Restaurant and co-editor (with Hokulani Aikau and Jennifer Pierce) of Feminist Waves, Feminist Generations, Life Stories from the Academy.


“Presented with insight and compassion, How We Die Now teaches as it sorts the complexity of what is called the ‘work of dying.’ This book is not so much about the dying process as it is about what can be learned from those who work with those who are dying. Surprises and lessons abound as this gray area at the end of life comes into view with clarity.”

—Jay Gubrium, Professor and Chair of Sociology at the University of Missouri and author of Living and Dying at Murray Manor

“Erickson is most upbeat about the aging process and dying—a glass half full mentality—yet she does not sugarcoat the information. Her integration of aging and dying in the book is nicely handled, and she asks a series of questions that make the reader think. Erickson’s participant-observation work is also to be applauded, as most studies neglect significant actors such as nursing assistants. The quotations and interactions from her interviews, which are excellent, really bring the situation close to home for the reader.”

—George Dickinson, Professor of Sociology at the College of Charleston and coauthor of Understanding Dying, Death, and Bereavement

How We Die Now touches on increasingly common experiences with the problems associated with care of the dying. Erickson has an interesting story to tell, and her book makes a distinctive contribution to the literature on death and dying, not only because of its focus on one continuing care retirement community but also because of its sociological approach. That is the book’s great dual strength.”

—Daniel Callahan, Senior Research Scholar at and President Emeritus of the Hastings Center and Codirector of the Yale-Hastings Program in Ethics and Health Policy

“Erickson has chosen a timely topic. As technological brinkmanship enables people to stay alive for many more years than previously, the quality of life during these extra years is being called into question.... Erickson's call for better treatment of the elderly during these waning years and the need to make more informed decisions about extending life is an important one.... VERDICT: A well-meaning contribution to an extremely important subject.”

Library Journal

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University Press Audiobooks
an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks

University Press Audiobooks