Odes to Dead Spouses

Sometimes you notice a quiet little theme running through the books you've read of late. For whatever reason, in the last few years I've read three books that are all memoirs of a spouse grieving the loss and/or celebrating the life of a recently departed husband or wife.

All of these books are extremely short, incredibly touching, and not recommended as airplane reading... unless you enjoy having strangers wonder why you're crying over a book.


The Year of Magical Thinking

by Joan Didion

Ok, I'm starting the list with a serious downer. This book doesn't really celebrate her relationship with her departed husband as much as it documents her grieving process as only someone like Joan Didion could.

It's an important book though with a number of lessons, not the least of which is that if she can survive what happened to her, then you're probably going to make it too.


About Alice

by Calvin Trillin

Swinging from one extreme to another, this book is a full-on celebration of just how wonderfully lucky and inspired Calvin Trillin felt to be able to spend his life with his recently departed wife.

Actually, I think the dedication pretty much sums it up: "I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice."

This book also appears on Calvin Trillin's Top Five


The Best Day The Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon

by Donald Hall

I'll admit, I haven't read this one but when I asked around for suggestions to flesh out this list, many people mentioned this book. A trusted friend, Dervala, says:

"There's lots of joy in this book. It's a clear-eyed and unsentimental look at sickness and death, but a good chunk of it is the story of their unusual marriage and how they lived and worked."

Beyond that, I don't want to tell you any more because I don't want to look it up. I want to read this book some day and I think it will have that much more impact if I go into it clean.

This book also appears on Peter Steinberg's Reading List


Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time

by Rob Sheffield

And lastly, a book that's a perfect balance between love, grief and healing. I don't want to say too much about this one but if you're a fan of popular music at all — pop, rock, disco, grunge... and you'd enjoy reading a short book full of raw and honest emotion, then I highly recommend this book.