The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch


This autobiography/memoir/encouragement piece was predictable in that it was everything I had already heard in the media. It was also incredibly surprising in Pausch's method of attacking this work here at the end of his life. For some background, Randy Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 06, and in August of 07 was given 3-6 months to live. He's now on month 10, by the way, and his day-to-day update page is here. As a former professor of computer science (specifically, virtual reality) at Carnegie Mellon University, he was invited back to give his last lecture. That lecture was recorded (as it seems everything is now) and posted to YouTube. The link to that is here, and as of this posting it has been viewed over 2 million times. Obviously, a clip that popular caught some national attention...hence the book. The book gives an in-depth view to Randy's state of mind and his reasoning for choosing the points to express. His primary motivation is to leave a legacy for his 3 very young children, who are unlikely to remember him very well, if at all.

I'll tell ya, this book is beyond inspirational. I don't know that I've ever come across someone who is doing about this whole dying thing as well as Randy Pausch. He's very realistic yet remarkable, funny but nerdy, and immediately likeable. Despite the fact that he chronicles his experiences in Academia that most people cannot and will never relate to, he does so in such a simplistic fashion that you understand and take away some deep life lessons from his excerpts. The last few chapters are when Randy begins to speak more specifically to and about his wife and children, and that part is pretty tough emotionally. He wraps it up nicely, however, and send you back to your life feeling all warm and fuzzy and better just for reading about him.

I highly recommend reading the book and then watching the lecture on TouTube. That will give you the whole picture, and therefore the best experience. My favorite line in the video clip is when Randy talks about the fact that he has indeed had a deathbed conversion experience: he recently purchased a Mac. ;)