The written word is an incredibly powerful tool that can convey ideas, emotions and our shared experiences not only across geographic distances, but across time.

Think back to that one book that jolted you upright and started you on your own personal journey. What was it? How did it inspire you to live your life more fully, to get up and make something happen?

Recently, we asked the Hospice by the Bay staff to share their most inspirational books and why they were so important. Here is a sampling. We invite you to share yours on our Living Before Leaving Facebook Page. And, if you can’t think of an inspiring book, then consider this your starter list.


Living Your Dying, by Stanley Keleman
“I love this book by my teacher and the founder of Formative Psychology. It is about how dying is an act of living. I highly recommend it.”


The Road Less Traveled, by Scott Peck
“A friend sent it to me during a particular difficult time in my life, while I was still young. I guess it was not “hard enough” yet, because I resentfully chose not to read it. I thought, “Why would I want to read this?” Then life took a bigger nosedive and I opened the book. The first line is “Life is difficult.” That caught my attention. It has made all the difference.”


Just This Side of Heaven, by Timothy Glass
“I know the author personally and his beagles. The story is very similar to Marley and Me, except in this case it’s a beagle.”


The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
“This book is all about making a conscious decision to be happy — to surround yourself with the people, activities, and things that make you feel most comforted, content, and joyous. To make time each day for the things that really matter to you.”


Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin
The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life & Times of Harvey Milk, by Randy Shilts
Maurice, by E.M. Forster
Howl, by Allen Ginsberg

“All of these have gay characters, or were written by gay men, which gave me hope as a gay kid growing up in Western Kansas and going to college in the Midwest. Most of them also have examples of lives well-lived. Although, the only person who can decide if a life is well-lived is the person living the life. All of these books also have examples of a life not lived well. Although, who is to judge again? They all show how life is short and there is no guarantee any of us will wake up tomorrow. Personally, I always loved how “in your face” Howl was, and how it just pulled the whitewash off life and showed it for what it was. It is real, it is strong, it is an amazing piece of work.”


A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last, by Stephen Levine
“Life can move at such a fast pace, full of appointments and busy-ness, that I can forget to attend to my own internal wishes and hopes. Reading about Levine’s experience of living as though the next year would be his last helped me examine my personal priorities. I have tried to stop focusing on my accomplishments and to slow down, enjoy, feel and be more present with my actual daily experience. I tune in more often to more of what’s important to my life’s journey, whether it be making the effort to work on mending some difficult relationships, or taking an art class for fun, rather than putting it off because I’m too busy. It’s true, there really is no time like the present.”

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