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Book Cover Image: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeff Zaslow

Title: The Last Lecture

Author: Randy Pausch and Jeff Zaslow

Narrator: Erik Singer

Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):  “‘We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.’ — Randy Pausch

A lot of professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can’t help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave — “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” — wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.”

Thoughts: Simply put, if you have not seen the video of Mr. Pausch’s last lecture or read this book, you need to make every effort to do so. Mr. Pausch’s legacy on how to approach life and death is well worth the effort. His message spans generations, providing food for thought for young and old.

Based on his last lecture given at Carnegie Mellon, the book references his thought process while developing this famous lecture, his feelings and thoughts while giving it and some of what occurred in his life in the months afterwards. His life lessons are simple but true but force the reader or listener to rethink one’s own approach to life.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the novel is Mr. Pausch’s self-awareness. He lived an extraordinary life, and he knows it. Yet, he does not take a single moment of that life for granted. Yes, he experienced situations most people will only dream of facing, both good and bad, yet he worked hard to achieve his dreams. His “unusual” approach to life – work hard, don’t whine – is what made him successful, and it is a lesson a majority still need to learn.

Make no mistake, The Last Lecture will tear at your heartstrings. One cannot help but place oneself into Mr. Pausch’s shoes, wondering how one would react if faced with terminal cancer at a young age and with very young children. Yet, as painful as it was to read at times, it forced me to question my own attitudes and behaviors. As with other self-help books I’ve read this past year, it was exactly what I needed to read to help me see my own faults and where I was going wrong in my life at work and at home.

The Last Lecture is a novel that will stay with me for a very long time. Mr. Pausch’s love of life, his acceptance of the inevitable, his will to fight, and yet his ability to prepare for the future in which he will not be a part is unlike anything I’ve experienced to date. However, I cannot help but feel lucky that I was able to get a glimpse into this incredibly unselfish person’s mindset and grateful that he felt comfortable enough to share with the world his very private thoughts. Mr. Pausch moved me to my very core.

As an audio, The Last Lecture excels. Mr. Pausch has a natural story-telling ability that shines via audio. Mr. Singer was an excellent narrator, evoking a charm and sympathy that goes above and beyond the words on the page. He balances the more depressing aspects of the novel without becoming overly sentimental or emotional. As powerful as the novel is in print, I personally feel it was heightened by the audio performance.

I cannot express how much I enjoyed this novel, even as I was exercising with tears running down my face. It is a novel unlike any other. I already have designs to purchase the novel for my son and will be downloading this to my husband’s iPod for his listening enjoyment. If you have not had the pleasure, you truly need to add The Last Lecture to your TBR pile!

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