Letty Cottin Pogrebin is an award-winning journalist, widely published opinion writer, acclaimed public speaker, admired political activist, and author of several nonfiction bestsellers including Getting Over Getting Older. This incredibly practical resource grew out of Pogrebin's battle with breast cancer and what she noticed about the difficulties people had when they came to visit her. She talked to other patients at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and then expanded her interviews to veterans of serious illnesses. The result is a wise and salutary mix of stories, advice, insights, and revelations about the best ways to express our love and compassion for friends and family members who are sick and in pain and distress.

Pogrebin respects the good intentions of those who came to visit her but she makes it clear that we all need a little help with "the etiquette of illness." The author, who gives an up-tempo picture of her delight in being 70 years old, is part of the Baby Boom Generation who are now experiencing health crises and will continue to do so as they age and their bodies deteriorate. The old adage "one size fits all" does not apply to bedside visits to friends who are ailing. But the diversity of situations enables us to try a variety of strategies. Here are some of the topics covered in the book:

• The Ten Commandments for Conversing with a Sick Friend including "Think twice before giving advice" and "Treat your friends as you always did before they got sick — but never forget their changed circumstances."

• Seven Things Sick People Want to Hear, including "Tell me how I can help" and "That sounds awful; I can't even imagine the pain."

• Twenty Rules for Good Behavior While Visiting the Sick, Suffering, Injured, or Disabled: "Respect the hospital's rule." "If they're asleep when you arrive, don't wake them." "Unless they're notably chatty and keep insisting you stay, your visit to a patient's hospital room shouldn't last more than 20 minutes."

• Ten Tips for Good Giving: "Don't pressure them to eat, use, wear, comment on, or rave about what you've given them." "Steer clear of self-help books." "Choose a gift that's small and light enough to take home."

This is a perfect gift for a friend given the fact that one or both of you will be passing through this experience either as a patient or as a visitor. Pogrebin has written a spirited, wide-ranging, and practical guide to making the most out of your visits to a sick friend.