Summary of A Beginner’s Guide to the End

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A Beginner’s Guide to the End book summary

Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Applicable
  • Eye Opening


Combining editor Shoshana Berger’s communication skills with hospice doctor B.J. Miller’s medical knowledge, this reference guide to dying is essential reading. Well-organized and thorough, compassionate and wise, it covers planning your estate, coping with bad news, handling the costs of terminal illness, knowing what to expect in hospice care, and dealing with funeral and memorial options. Miller and Berger help you handle the details and the inevitable paperwork while offering practical compassion for your path.

About the Authors

Shoshana Berger, the former senior editor of Wired and editor-in-chief of ReadyMade magazine, is editorial director for the global design firm IDEO. B.J. Miller is a hospice and palliative care physician at UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Care Center.


When planning ahead for your death, don’t leave a mess, leave a mark.

Life doesn’t offer “death ed” classes, but knowledge can make the end-of-life experience much easier. The more you plan ahead while you are well and have the cooperation of your loved ones, the less anxiety you will feel if your health declines. Only about 10% of the population dies suddenly, so the other 90% has no excuse for not having a will or end-of-life care plan.

They say you can’t take it with you – and they’re right. Occasional purges are good any time, but especially as you age. Don’t leave a mess for your family to clean up. Bequeath heirlooms while you are alive to share the story behind them, and sell what you don’t need. Get your relationships in order. That may mean sharing old secrets, or saying you are sorry and that you love someone despite a long conflict. Your emotional pain dies with you. Theirs won’t.

A legacy is often monetary, but it can also be other things of value, such as your life story. Monetary legacies could be scholarships, endowments or philanthropies. You can donate stocks, retirement plans, ...

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