penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.

The Last Lecture

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I just finished reading “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch and his co-writer Jeffrey Zaslow.

If you haven’t heard about the concept of a “last lecture”, it is a tradition in which an academic gives a theoretical final talk about what matters most to them, a parting gift of wisdom and lessons learned.

The book is based on the lecture that Mr. Pausch gave on September 18, 2007.  In Mr. Pausch’s case, it was a true last lecture as he was dying of pancreatic cancer when he gave it.

If you are going to do either one, I would recommend watching Mr. Pausch give his address over reading the book, although I did read the book first.

The first few chapters of the book hit very close to home.  I bought it during the summer – before we were fully aware of my mother’s diagnosis – but I have only started reading it in the last few weeks.  I had not known the specific type of cancer Mr. Pausch had prior to starting reading, so it was a bit of a shock to discover that that he had the same kind my mom does.  As a result, as  I started readingm I hoped that the book might give me some insight on how to support my mom both physically and mentally through her illness.  Instead, the book and the lecture are a series of lessons on how to live your life in a better, more fulfilled way.

Essentially the book contains the same themes and messages that are contained in Mr. Pausch’s presentation. The book includes a bit more detail about Mr. Pauch’s life, as well as some of the “behind the scenes” thinking surrounding the lecture.  It also provides an opportunity for Mr. Pausch to talk more about his kids and his wife than he permitted himself during his original address.  There are a few more anecdotes and examples to round out his ideas.

However, the book comes across as more earnest and self-help styled than Mr. Pausch’s talk.  As I continued to read further into the book, this became a bit of a disappointment.  It may be that the lengthened format did a disservice to the original presentation.  It could also be that because the book was co-authored, the original tone of the lecture was lost.  Either way, I found the experience of watching Mr. Pausch deliver his lecture to be much more powerful.  It is also better show case for the strength of his personality, conviction and sense of humour – all of which seem to be dulled down in the book.

The part of both the lecture and the book that had the most impact dealt with enabling others to fulfil their dreams.  Mr. Pausch described a number of occasions where others helped him enable his dreams and he provides a number of anecdotes on how he has helped to pay this forward to both his students and other colleagues.  It’s a lesson everyone should learn from.

Final Verdict:  The book is okay (a library loaner).  Better to spend an hour and watch the lecture.


Written by pennyinacastle

January 21, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Posted in books

Tagged with ,

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