March 10, 2009

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

BOOK #: 15
CHALLENGES: In Their Shoes Challenge
RATING: Amazing! (4 stars)

Randy Pausch was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon who had a beautiful family and an infectious lookout on life. When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Randy was asked to give a 'last lecture', a chance to share a lifetime's worth of wisdom and experience one last time. Randy decided that this had to be done. For him there was no choice. He gave a lecture that was not about dying, but about living, and in doing so gave the world - and especially his children- much to remember him by.

This was probably one of my favorite memoirs. Right up there with Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I would have loved to have Randy Pausch as a professor. The way he led his classes, the way he encouraged those around him, the way he gave everyone hope and determination and confidence. One day, for instance, he brought a VCR into the classroom and proceeded to smash it with a sledgehammer. His lesson? This is what happens when customers cannot understand their instruction manuals. Never write something that will result in a VCR being smashed to a pulp. I mean, how cool is that?

He tells about how to pursue your dreams no matter what and how doing this got him a job working with Imagineering at Disney. He talked about how he went from the top dog in his world of academia to bottom of the totem pole at Disney. He went on to do great things with Imagineering anyway.

He also tells the sweetest stories about his wife, Jai, and their three children- Dylan, 6, Logan, 3, and Chloe, 18 months old. He writes about little ways that each of them have made an impact on his life. He talks about how every time he plays with them he plays with them as if it is his last time to do so. He pours out his heart about how the boys will have very few memories of him and how Chloe will probably not remember him at all. He ensures that they know who their father was through this book, through home movies and pictures, and even takes Logan and Dylan to do very memorable activities with him in hopes that this will help preserve him in their memories. There was one section where Randy spoke of how he would cry in the shower. He wouldn't cry for what he would miss, but for what his children would miss out on not having a father around.

It gave me a sense of peace, in a way, that it was okay with him that he would have to leave things undone and something was going to be forgotten to be said. In the past month and a half I have often thought about the things my father never got the chance to finish doing before he died. There are half-done projects in the garage and the basement. There are the books he bought on ADD to help him understand me better that he did not get to finish reading. There are the plans he made- to see my younger sister's apartment in D.C., to finally go on that beach trip with me that was interrupted by my emergency gallbladder surgery, to travel with my mom in their retirement years. It reminds me also not to put things off so often. I am a procrastinator through genetics I think sometimes. But, through life experience, I am now learning to become more of an opportunity-grabber. I guess this is the last lesson my own father is teaching me. Somehow he has even managed to give me a life lesson after his death. He would teasingly gloat about it if he knew.

I highly recommend reading this book if you haven't had the chance. It is only 200 pages, but packed with messages about how you can live a life full of optimism, love, and joie de vivre. What wisdom would you impart to the world if you knew it was your last chance?

Randy with his children Dylan, Logan, and Chloe

An emotional embrace with his wife, Jai, after the lecture.

RANDY PAUSCH (10/23/1960- 07/25/2008)

Other Reviews of The Last Lecture:


  1. We read this for my book club back in August or September. It was great, and really motivating as well. Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Great review. What a lovely tribute to your father.

  3. I loved this book too. I read it shortly before he died. I love that you included those pictures in your review.

  4. What a beautiful review. He was an amzaing man. I wish I could have known him in "real life."
    Your father really must have been so special...I wish I could have met him too :)

  5. The book sounds great. Thanks for the review so I can add this to my TBR.


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