Randy Pausch: The Last Lecture

Pausch, Randy. The Last Lecture (New York: Hyperion, 2008)

In The Last Lecture, noted CMU professor Randy Pausch tells the story behind his famous last lecture, paralleling much of the lecture itself as he does so. (Despite the repetition, perhaps the only way to improve this book would have been to include a DVD of the lecture.) Pausch's recent death propelled his book The Last Lecture over several others in my to-be-read stack; reading it was a sadder experience than it would have been just a little while ago, but that is more a testament to what Pausch wrote than the time in which I read it. Indeed, his sentiments may outlive the rest of us much as they did him.

The Last Lecture isn't a depressing tale of surgery, chemo, and radiation, but rather a celebration of living well in a limited time--Pausch writes about achieving our own dreams and enabling those of others. One needn't be staring down the barrel of a terminal disease to get a great deal out insight from this book, and I have more praise for it than perhaps any current best-seller I've ever read. In a book filled with wisdom about life, love, and parenting, it is difficult to highlight just a few representative passages. I will confine myself with one that spoke deeply to me, these words on the importance of maintaining an inquisitive household: dad had an infectious inquisitiveness about current events, history, our lives. In fact, growing up, I though there were two types of families:
1) Those who need a dictionary to get through dinner.
2) Those who don't.

We were No. 1. Most every night, we'd end up consulting the dictionary, which we kept on a shelf just six steps from the table. "If you have a question," my folks would say, "then find the answer."
The instinct in our house was never to sit around like slobs and wonder. We knew a better way: Open the encyclopedia. Open the dictionary. Open your mind. (p. 22)

A world filled with dream-achievers such as Mr Pausch would be an immeasurably happier place; spend some time with his book to find out why. (But watch his lecture first!) After you've read The Last Lecture, share it with someone you love.

Randy Pausch on Wikipedia
CMU's Entertainment Technology Center
Alice Project
Pausch's role in JJ Abrams' upcoming Star Trek film


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