Book review- Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Every saturday morning we start our morning by watching TV (what else is new!) and the taped episode of the previous friday’s Bill Maher talk. I have come to love the show for its political satire and I especially like his 5 minute interviews with really amazing people who have written really amazing books.

Dr. Atul Gawande was one such person interviewed towards the end of 2014. He had come out with a new book called ‘Being Mortal. ‘ This person seemed so frank and likable and the topic of aging and healthcare for the elderly in the US seemed such a relevant topic that I immediately put the book on my “should be read” list. It still took me a good 6 months to get a hold of the book and to make the time to read it. And I must say it’s one of the best and scariest books I have read till date. I gave it to my mom who’s 70 + and even though she’s a slow reader, she read it in 5 days (including most of the time we were on vacation in CA!) After completing it, she sent me an email saying it’s one of the best books she’s ever read and even bought it as a gift for her doctor. It may seem depressing at first because he narrates the difficulties elderly people face and we all will face but this is a truth we have to learn about to be able to change. Growing old is not negotiable, how we grow old is. That’s my quote..below are some better ones from the author himself:

  • “Being mortal is about the struggle to cope with the constraints of our biology, with the limits set by genes and cells and flesh and bone.
  • As modern doctors we think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive.
  • “How we seek to spend our time may depend on how much time we perceive ourselves to have.”
  • “He argued, human beings need loyalty. It does not necessarily produce happiness, and can even be painful, but we all require devotion to something more than ourselves for our lives to be endurable. Without it, we have only our desires to guide us, and they are fleeting, capricious, and insatiable. They provide, ultimately, only torment.”
  • “It is not death that the very old tell me they fear. It is what happens short of death—losing their hearing, their memory, their best friends, their way of life. As Felix put it to me, “Old age is a continuous series of losses.” Philip Roth put it more bitterly in his novel Everyman: “Old age is not a battle. Old age is a massacre.”
  • “Courage is strength in the face of knowledge of what is to be feared or hoped. Wisdom is prudent strength.”
  • “The only way death is not meaningless is to see yourself as part of something greater: a family, a community, a society. If you don’t, mortality is only a horror. But if you do, it is not.
  • “The three primary risk factors for falling are poor balance, taking more than four prescription medications, and muscle weakness.” 

I would like to end this short blog by recommending this book as an inspiring read for anyone who wishes to live happily which includes knowing that aging is a part of the living process.

Author and surgeon Atul Gawande. (Tim Llewellyn) Image distributed by Metropolitan Books with no restrictions. ** OUTS - ELSENT, FPG - OUTS * NM, PH, VA if sourced by CT, LA or MoD **

Author and surgeon Atul Gawande.

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