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The End of Your Life Book Club

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  52,495 ratings  ·  7,609 reviews
An Entertainment Weekly and BookPage Best Book of the Year

During her treatment for cancer, Mary Anne Schwalbe and her son Will spent many hours sitting in waiting rooms together. To pass the time, they would talk about the books they were reading. Once, by chance, they read the same book at the same time—and an informal book club of two was born. Through their wide-ranging
Paperback, 326 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Vintage (first published October 2nd 2012)
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Cathe This was a great book, I learned so much about people as well as good books. What an amazing woman.

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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  52,495 ratings  ·  7,609 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Oct 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite
Update: I read this book when it was first released. I paid full price - bought the hard copy and still own it and have referred to the glossary in the back of the book many times.

I have also - since reading this book bought AT LEAST a DOZEN copies ....or more ( Not at full price)... but in perfect condition to give to close friends...
heck -- I've sent the book to a few people on this site.
I LOVE this book - I adore Will ( the author) ...
And Ive known Will had been writing a new book about BO
Jul 08, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I truly wanted to enjoy this book. I read this book for a book club and at first I thought it was a good choice. It sounded like something I would really want to sink my teeth into, however, I just did not find it interesting. It is appalling that I was 90% of the way through and telling myself, don't worry, she must die soon and it will all be over (I feel like a terrible person). I appreciate that Will Schwalbe's mother appears to have been a woman who championed many valuable causes and did g ...more
Nancy Kennedy
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Will Schwalbe began accompanying his mother to chemo treatments for her pancreatic cancer at Sloan Kettering. To pass the time, Mr. Shwalbe asks his mother, "What are you reading?"

Fortunately, Mr. Schwalbe and his mother had always shared a love of reading and enjoyed spirited conversations about their favorite books. While the endless chemo treatments proceed, and his mother's disease progresses, the two make their way through books of all kinds, from the popular (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Ag
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Debbie by: My coffee-drinking friend, Carrie
If you had only 24 hours to live, which book would you choose to read?

Soon after her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, Mary Ann, and her son, author Will Schwalbe, began to share and discuss a variety of books that had made an impact on their lives. His memoir describes his mother as a strong, worldly, kind woman, and he relates to us her life, thoughts and beliefs which were often affected by the people she met and the books she read. Some of the books mentioned are now on my WTR list!

This was a
Oct 04, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-reads
The book discussions were cursory, at best. I hadn't intended to find myself reading a memoir of a parent's pancreatic cancer; call me oversensitive (and a sucker), but books like this make me FURIOUS! The author seems like a nice man and all, but what exactly is the draw for readers? It's his personal memoir and story of his mother, and it's actually really, really boring. The book club-thing is a gimmick - Schwalbe works in publishing, after all (i.e., he had connections and help getting it pu ...more
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booktopia-2013
A beautiful book about the connection through books a mother and son were able to make it the years leading up to her death from pancreatic cancer. I lost my mother to cancer six years ago, and I really envy how Will and his mother Mary Ann were able to find a common language to discuss the questions of life, death, and the possibility of the hereafter.

I wish my mother and I had had that common language. And I wish my stepfather, through his own bitterness and lashing out, hadn't poisoned my pro
Sep 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Reading isn't the opposite of doing; it's the opposite of dying."

This is an amazing memoir. Mary Anne Schwalbe was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007, and she and her son spend time sharing books and holding informal book club chats, partly because they were both avid readers and partly to take Mary Anne's mind off of her illness. So it's a book about books, but it's also about the lessons Will learned from his mom.

I would recommend this book to any book lovers, but also to those who are
Oct 24, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
There were so many problems with this book. First, the author so worshiped his mother that the reader never got to know the real her. She was on the board of numerous international organizations that help refugees, orphans, and women. She traveled extensively, often coming home quite ill. She seemed to take this as part of her working overseas and refused to take the full course of antibiotics. (The author reports this as if it is heroic rather than foolish.) She also supposedly talks to everyo ...more
3.5 stars

A hard one to review as my beloved nanny died of pancreatic cancer last year. I didn't realise this before agreeing to review the book and the parallel experiences made it a challenging read. Especially as her birthday has just gone and there are only three months till the anniversary of her death. She was on my mind even before reading this. Nanny and I never had a book club as such, but we both read a lot and often shared/talked about books. She is intertwined so much with my idea of
This book is one hell of a journey; it is not always easy to read. Some parts are hysterically funny, and others are crushingly sad.

"The End of Your Life Book Club" details the final two years of Mary Ann Schwalbe, who died after battling metastatic pancreatic cancer. In the pantheon of cancers, pancreatic is one of the most deadly, especially once it spreads to other organs, the liver, in Mrs Schwalbe's case.

She is a woman unaccustomed to sitting still. She was an educator, a philanthropist, a
A loving tribute to life and to reading.

I want to tell everyone I know -- READ THIS BOOK! The book cover's flap has the best word to described this book: profoundly moving, joyful (in spite of loss) and a celebration of life, love and the written word.

I'm very fussy about reading non-fiction and more judgmental of non-fiction than fiction; very often I think someone wants to tell a story just to 'hear' themselves 'talk'. But this book was not about that, and easily earned 5* from me.

If you do p
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely wonderfully written book that is not just the personal experience of Will Schwalbe. This book explores the power of books, reading them, discussing them and intagrating them into our lives and the lives of others. I think we all have an understanding of how important our friends and family are, but this book brings home the importance of letting those people know not just how much you love them, but how proud you are of them or how much you respect them and what they have done or t ...more
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mari Anne
I started out loving the book and the story behind it... who wouldn't love a book about books. The whole idea of his mother dying of cancer didn't worry me as I am very much a realist about things like that. I LOVE to talk about books and I also love to read books where books are either the center of the story or almost another character (i.e. The 13th Tale, The Angels Game, Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society, The Book Thief, 84 Charing Cross Road.... I could go on and on). This one however ...more
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, favorite
I've had this book for sometime, I put off reading it because it was personal to me. I was afraid of what I would read, afraid of being sad. I was wrong! I loved this book for so many reasons. I was hooked from page one. Who doesn't love a book about books? There's so much more in this book, joy, life lessons, wisdom, an inside look at a family who is faced with a big bump in the road. Life has bumps in the road, some bigger than others. It's the way we choose to handle them that makes all the d ...more
Diane S ☔
Apr 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book about a dying woman could be extremely melancholy and I will admit to having teary eyes at various points in this book. Yet, this book is so much more, it is a celebration of a life that was lived well, a life that helped other people, the love of a son for his mother and a love of books, stories and the belief that they can make a huge difference. In this book the author relates exactly how and why books have made such a huge impact on his life, the life of his family and his mother in p ...more
Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't often give books 2 stars, and I feel pretty heartless doing it for this one. But it deserves it. It maybe deserves 1, but I got some ideas for books to read, so fine. 2 stars. What are the problems with this book? Geez, where do I start? For having been an editor and...writer (?!) Will Schwalbe was desperately in need of somebody to teach him how to write. I am not exaggerating when I say that I could have written this book -- and I really don't say that kind of thing lightly. It was clu ...more
Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carol by: Anne Kingman & Michael Kindness, BOTNS
My sincere thanks to Alfred A. Knopf Publishing and Anne Kingman & Michael Kindness of Books on the Nightstand for the advanced reading copy of this book which will be published October 2012.

There is so much I'd like to tell you about The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe but this is one of those books you need t read yourself and take away what you will.

The title describes what we're about to read aptly as it is Will Schwalbe's story of the bound he and his mother, Mary Ann Schwalbe
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“We're all in the end-of-your-life book-club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.”

This is one of the most beautifully written memoirs I have ever read. When Schwalbe’s 73-year-old mother, Mary Anne, is diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, she determines to continue living her life at the same wistful speed despite grim life expectancy statistics. A retired teacher and active humanitarian, her son graciously introduce
This was unfortunately, not what I thought I was signing up for, though it was not without it's merits. I was expecting a story of a mother and son saying good-bye to each other, but with a heavy focus on reads they shared and discussions regarding these books. In reality, there are only tiny snippets about books - rarely was it enough to garner any real interest on my part. So, if like me, you came here looking for a book about books, keep looking.

Things I enjoyed: There are many great quotes f
Sep 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition matter where Mom and I were on our individual journeys, we could still share books, and while reading those books , we wouldn't be the sick person and the well person; we would simply be a mother and son entering new worlds together.

Welcome to a most unusual book club where each book you read may be the last. The members are the author and his mother Mary Anne, who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Her disease is treatable, but not cureable. There will be no miracles; the most she
Let me start out by saying this book was just not for me, and I went into it full knowing I shouldn't be reading it because I basically lived it with a loved one (without the book club, of course).

I wish I wasn't familiar with many of the drugs and their side affects, 4 FU (5 FU in the book), we had a nickname for that one, steroids, Ritalin, and lots of Imodium to name a few, as well as the frequent blood work, chemo rooms, surgery for ports, PET scans every three months and the waiting and pr

Dec 16, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe I'm a cold person because I didn't find this book touching, or maybe I have discerning tastes and I can smell when a former publisher called in a favor to a colleague a mile a way. The two members of this book club are Schwalbe and his mother, Mary Ann. Almost from the get-go I felt no bond with these people. Mary Ann was an admissions counselor at Harvard, in addition to holding similar positions at other Ivy League schools in addition to doing all kinds of humanitarian refugee work in al ...more
Lisa Dunckley
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love books, and I love books ABOUT books. Will Schwalbe and his mother have both always been big readers, but when his mother is diagnosed with cancer and has to spend a lot of time at doctors’ offices and in bed, with little to do BUT read, they decide to form a book club of just the two of them.

What I most enjoyed about this book were the descriptions of the books. There were books I had in my To Be Read pile that I moved to the top after reading what Will’s mother said about them. There wer
Apr 28, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: over-rated
I imagine that a reader's reaction to this book will be determined by their expectations. I wanted it to be a substantive book about books. It was not: it was a lovely memorial to Schwalbe's impressive mother and a tribute to his affection and respect for her.

I wanted it to offer illuminating discussion between two people who used books as a therapy during a difficult illness. It did not. I am afraid this is a cynical reaction, but knowing that the author comes from the publishing industry, I f
This was a fabulous read. I love to read and to be able to share my love of books with others and this was exactly about that and the relationship forged between son and terminally ill mother. It was one of those reads that made me sit back and think, WOW. Not only because of the love of reading they shared, but because this woman was a phenomenal person who changed people's lives, doing whatever she could to make things better. With even things as simple as a smile. This book made me want to do ...more
Larry H
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

In 2007, Will Schwalbe's dynamic mother, Mary Anne, was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is always fatal. This was a shock to Will's entire family, as Mary Anne had always been a true force of nature, a crusader for humanitarian rights all over the globe, once the director of admissions at Harvard and Radcliffe, and truly an inspiration to everyone she encountered.

Mary Anne and her husband, Douglas, raised their three children with very strong principles of courtesy
Oct 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I think the most underrated human trait is kindness, a notion reinforced when I hear about people who devote their lives to helping and caring for others. If everyone made an effort to be nice to one another every day... well, who knows? What made me interested in The EOYLBC was the idea of a son discussing books with his mother while she is undergoing chemo treatments. What kept me interested was his amazing mother, who seemed to define the meaning of the word kind. In her long life she helped ...more
Nima Morgan
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great read for book lovers, and a heart warming journey.
I really enjoyed The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. Given the name, it's no spoiler to say that we are with a son and his terminally ill mother, sharing their time-and their reading-together.

I read more and more slowly as I neared the end: I became very fond of Mary Ann Schwalbe and did not want to say good-bye to her or our time together.
I grew to admire her tremendously and wish I could have actually met her.

I do wish Schwalbe had given more space to the books being discussed but
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Greetings! Since we are both here, I’m guessing you are probably a fellow book-lover. Always great to meet other members of the tribe!

I’ve put a lot about myself in my books, but here are some of the basics. I was born in New York in 1962; grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts; went to boarding school in New Hampshire, and to college in New Haven, Connecticut. So I consider myself a New Englander, e

Articles featuring this book

His memoir, The End of Your Life Book Club, tells of the two-person club he formed with his indomitable mother as she underwent chemotherapy for...
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“We're all in the end-of-your-life book-club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.” 158 likes
“One of the many things I love about bound books is their sheer physicality. Electronic books live out of sight and out of mind. But printed books have body, presence. ... I often seek electronic books, but they never come after me. They may make me feel, but I can't feel them. They are all soul with no flesh, no texture, and no weight.” 153 likes
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