There is a common theme in the world of college professors, giving a “last lecture,” in which one explores the course of action in the case of a terminal medical diagnosis. It forces the living to examine life-altering questions that normally only the dying are exposed to.
When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, was asked to give such a lecture, he would have never thought that it actually would be his last lecture. Sadly, a month before giving the talk, Pausch was given a terminal pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
The Last Lecture, written by Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow, is a book written to document Pausch’s journey in writing his 2007 speech, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, as well as a self-written memoir dedicated to preserving his personality, wisdom, and memories for his children.
Throughout the personal pages, Pausch strives to answer the question, “What wisdom would you try to impart to the world if you knew it was your last chance?” He not only answers that question, but also leaves the reader with a profound awareness of life, and how fragile it can be. Reading the book results in reflecting on one’s own life, and exploring what would our legacy be if we left this Earth tomorrow.
Even though the book deals with heavy subject matter such as illness and death, while reading it one does not feel depressed or anxious. Quite the contrary, Pausch injects the pages with life and humor, and I found myself laughing out loud to some of the antics he described.
The Last Lecture is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and should be required reading for all. At just over 206 pages, it is a short read, and I recommend it to anyone who is searching for a deeper meaning and higher level of happiness in their life.