This paperback is organized around an experiment in which Stephen Levine decided to live one year as if it were his last. With this objective, he becomes much more conscious of his states of mind and much more attentive to the bounties of the present moment.

In order to "sharpen life and soften death," he practices gratitude and forgiveness meditations, keeps a journal, inhabits his body in new ways, sets up an altar, and squares off against some of the demons which dim his appreciation of life — namely fear, desire, and the need for control. Whether writing about the death of friends, reincarnation, or planning one's own funeral, the author stays focused on the healing power of preparing for death. A Year to Live identifies the opportunities for meaning in the process of dying.