Death's Summer Coat: What the History of Death and Dying Teaches Us About Life and Living

Pegasus Books
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In the tradition of Being Mortal, Brandy Schillace looks at what we can learn from the incredibly diverse ways in which humans have dealt with mortality in different times and places

Death is something we all confront—it touches our families, our homes, our hearts. And yet we have grown used to denying its existence, treating it as an enemy to be beaten back with medical advances.

We are living at a unique point in human history. People are living longer than ever, yet the longer we live, the more taboo and alien our mortality becomes. Yet we, and our loved ones, still remain mortal. People today still struggle with this fact, as we have done throughout our entire history. What led us to this point? What drove us to sanitize death and make it foreign and unfamiliar?

Schillace shows how talking about death, and the rituals associated with it, can help provide answers. It also brings us closer together—conversation and community are just as important for living as for dying. Some of the stories are strikingly unfamiliar; others are far more familiar than you might suppose. But all reveal much about the present—and about ourselves.

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About the author

Author, historian, and public intellectual, Dr. Brandy Schillace seeks to uncover the human stories at the center of science and medicine. She is Senior Research Associate and Public Engagement Fellow for the Dittrick Museum of Medical History and Editor in Chief of BMJ’s Medical Humanities Journal. Recent publications include Death's Summer Coat (a cultural history of death and dying) and Clockwork Futures (steampunk science in the age of manufactured power). She has appeared on public radio, local television, and most recently, the Travel Channel’s "Mysteries at the Museum" season premier.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Pegasus Books
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Published on
Jan 15, 2016
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9781681770932
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / Anthropology / General
Social Science / Death & Dying
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Airships and electric submarines, automatons and mesmerists?welcome to the wild world of steampunk.  It is all speculative?or is it?  Meet the intrepid souls who pushed Victorian technology to its limits and paved the way for our present age.

The gear turns, the whistle blows, and the billows expand with electro-mechanical whirring. The shimmering halo of Victorian technology lures us with the stuff of dreams, of nostalgia, of alternate pasts and futures that entice with the suave of James Bond and the savvy of Sherlock Holmes. Fiction, surely.

But what if the unusual gadgetry so often depicted as “steampunk” actually made an appearance in history? Zeppelins and steam-trains; arc-lights and magnetic rays: these fascinating (and sometimes doomed) inventions bounded from the tireless minds of unlikely heroes. Such men and women served no secret societies and fought no super-villains, but they did build engines, craft automatons, and engineer a future they hoped would run like clockwork.

Along the way, however, these same inventors ushered in a contest between desire and dread. From Newton to Tesla, from candle and clockwork to the age of electricity and manufactured power, technology teetered between the bright dials of fantastic futures and the dark alleyways of industrial catastrophe.

In the mesmerizing Clockwork Futures, Brandy Schillace reveals the science behind steampunk, which is every bit as extraordinary as what we might find in the work of Jules Verne, and sometimes, just as fearful. These stories spring from the scientific framework we have inherited.  They shed light on how we pursue science, and how we grapple with our destiny—yesterday, today, and tomorrow.   

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • This inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic young neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • People • NPR • The Washington Post • Slate • Harper’s Bazaar • Time Out New York • Publishers Weekly • BookPage

Finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Books for a Better Life Award in Inspirational Memoir

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.
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