Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (Hyperion publishers)

Review by Michelle Hamer, journalist and author.

When I saw this book at my local op shop for $2 I was hesitant about buying it. I had heard about the story, and knew it was written by a US professor who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given just a few months to live. The last thing I wanted to read was a depressing tear-jerker. But I read the blurb and it actually sounded upbeat and positive so I decided to give it a try.

When the author Randy Pausch was told that he was dying from cancer he wanted to leave a legacy for his three young children. The book has lots of stories from his childhood and career, as well as advice for his kids (and all of us) to have fun and make our lives as enjoyable as possible.

The book is based on a ‘last lecture’ which Pausch gave at the Carnegie Mellon University in 2007. Every year professors at the university were asked to imagine what they would say to their students and peers if they really were giving their last lecture. Pausch was invited to give the lecture before he knew of his terminal diagnosis – afterwards it seemed like an ideal end to his academic career. In his lecture, titled Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams Pausch talked about the importance of holding onto the hopes, dreams and passions that fire our imaginations and working to make them a reality – even in some small way.

In his book, Pausch maintains a very healthy and impressive perspective on his final days and is very inspiring in his efforts to make the most of every minute he has left.

Despite my concerns there was nothing depressing about Pausch’s story and I managed to read it almost till the end before I got a bit teary.

The book was on the New York Times’s bestseller list for 102 weeks from 2008 to 2010 and is definitely worth a read.