Beth F.'s Reviews > The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
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's review
Aug 25, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: nonfiction, autobiographies-and-memoirs, 2009, it-made-me-cry, i-reviewed-this-bad-boy, tnbbc-winter-2008
Recommended to Beth F. by: Katie
Read in January, 2009

I think this was one of those books where knowing the criticisms before starting it ultimately upped my enjoyment factor.

Randy Pausch, the author, was one of those people who became wildly popular in 2008 thanks to the internet. He was a popular professor at Carnegie Mellon and was invited to give a “last lecture”, a tradition of sorts where a professor is urged to give a specially prepared lecture as though it were the last s/he were to ever give. And so they are encouraged to break down all the knowledge learned in their lives and during their careers into one hour-long presentation and say, “this is the best of what I know, here you go.” But for Randy Pausch, his Last Lecture became somewhat of a sensation because shortly before he was scheduled to give his presentation, he learned that he had late-stage pancreatic cancer and he only had 3-6 months left to live.

Throughout it all, he remained very upbeat, he was charismatic and his nerdy persona was infectious. And so copies of the lecture spread and spread and spread over the internet and suddenly Pausch was an overnight sensation. Only in America. :)

Given his shortened life span at the time of publication, I can understand why the book felt so rushed. There are some chapters that are little more than a couple paragraphs with a random anecdote that doesn’t really have anything to do with anything. And many of the longer ones appear to be run-ons. About halfway through the book I realized that each chapter of this book reminded me of a blog entry. Then I realized that that may be some of the appeal to this generation, because as a piece of literature, this book is just…well…no.

This book came highly recommended to me by my sister and my mom who love it. My mother-in-law has read this book and also loves it. And at the time I write this review, 8,197 4-star and 5-star reviews on GR and there are fewer than 500 ratings that are 2 stars or less, so Pausch’s story has clearly touched the lives of a lot of people. Since discovering this site, I almost always scan some of the top-vote-getting reviews before starting a book. Whether someone loved it or hated it, I’m always curious to know why. And in the case of this book, since there were so many glowing reviews, I found myself focusing on the negative ones if only because they appeared to be in the minority and the minority has always intrigued me.

Most of the complaints had to do with:
--the fact that Pausch sucks as an author
--Pausch’s personality
--what did this guy do so differently that he actually deserved a book?
--the book is too preachy
--it’s too Hallmarky
--it’s too Disney

So going into the book expecting these faults, I found myself focusing on what is probably the most important thing about this book: Randy Pausch (who isn’t alive anymore) had three children under the age of five who may not remember that once upon a time, he was their father who loved them very much.

And realizing that this year, next year, five, 10, 15, 45 years from now, his children will still have a record of who he was and what he stood for (whether I agree with all of it or not) is an unbelievably beautiful thing. My husband was a teenager when his mother died unexpectedly and years later, we still have items in our home that belonged to her: a set of water-color paintings she’d had since college, a hand-written recipe on a post-it note, a baby book full of hand-written notes and stories and photographs.

Having that connection to the past is a tangible reminder not only of what was lost, but of where we come from. And losing a parent before their time makes that connection even more powerful. And so I can’t help but feel glad and happy for Randy Pausch’s children because they will grow up knowing that their dad’s life inspired so many millions of people. I hope that will be a tremendous source of pride for them. They can’t have their dad, but the legacy he left them was the best he had to offer in the short amount of time he was given to work with.

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Reading Progress

01/28/2009 page 34
01/29/2009 page 97
47.09% "This isn't a particularly well-written book, but I am enjoying the process of hearing the stories he chose to share."
02/10/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Michael Scott I liked this one a lot, and I loved his speech [ ]--I will call them collectively 'it'. It is geeky, Disney-like, and so forth, but it also is a wonderful reminder of "you can do the right thing". Nowadays things are not rosy in academia (by a long mile), with politics and pressure to publish just two reasons for bending, so maybe that's what I really liked: that Randy Pausch gives hope and inspiration.

message 2: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Nice review, B!

Beth F. Thanks Tammy!

And Michael, I am in complete agreement.

Sarah Dammit! I had this book ready to send to you!

I'm glad we had the same opinion. He's a sucky writer. And the Disney made me want to puke. But...still a good message. And that really is a wonderful thing to leave your chillins.

Beth F. I was in Duluth visiting my parents and sister a week ago and they sent it home to me, lol. They beat you to it!

message 6: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Ok another great rating so will have to read it !

Beth F. He wasn't an author in the traditional sense but I really loved the message and his attitude.

message 8: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Great review, Beth.

Brendon I appreciated your reflections and ultimately focusing on why Randy wrote this book/lecture. Not for readers, for fame, but to leave a piece of himself for his children. Good review, great insight!

Beth F. Thanks Brendon. :)

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