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A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,131 ratings  ·  109 reviews
In his new book, Stephen Levine, author of the perennial best-seller Who Dies?, teaches us how to live each moment, each hour, each day mindfully--as if it were all that was left. On his deathbed, Socrates exhorted his followers to practice dying as the highest form of wisdom. Levine decided to live this way himself for a whole year, and now he shares with us how such imme ...more
Paperback, 175 pages
Published April 14th 1998 by Harmony (first published March 18th 1997)
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 ·  1,131 ratings  ·  109 reviews

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Jan 22, 2013 rated it liked it
I stopped buying books years ago out of a need to save space and money and a desire to be more enviornmentally friendly. However, I would consider purchasing Levine's "A Year to Live" just so I could look at its spine on my bookshelf and remember the lessons contained therein. The strategy of "life review" and having mental conversations with those people who you have hurt or who have heart you were really, really valuable tools that I've been using and have found very worthwhile.
However, with
Dec 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
"The next time you have a cold, practice dying. And in the spaciousness of surrender watch the fear of death bound through with its attendant scenarios. Take each breath as though with it might be the last. Watch your life pass before your eyes. Did you notice something left undone? Do it on the next clear day. Practice living." (Quote from Chapter 2 - Practice Dying) This book gave me a great gift - an insight to who and why, ...and how and when. I started the journey thru death in an attempt t ...more
Jan 18, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting topic to explore, but not sure he quite figured out how to really live like it was your last. He definitely has some insight into how to better prepare yourself for death and talks a lot about what death is and is not. Some of the chapters are redundant or purposeless. I do like many of the suggestions, such as forgiveness, life review and opening yourself up with meditations. An interesting read, but not enlightening.
Steve Woods
Apr 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
I have seen a lot of violent death in my life. It always perplexed me somewhat that it was someone else who caught it. This is generally part of a kind of survivor guilt that many combat veterans experience. My early life was also dominated by serious depression and suicide was an option that was on the table for decades. Now after 7 years of fairly concentrated practice and having well passed my 60th birthday "death" has taken on a quite different timbre. I guess I am in the process of redefini ...more
Lubinka Dimitrova
I'm sure that many people found solace in this book, but for me it was too abstract, and most of the author's "insights" were rather meaningless to me. Its all too poetic language failed to convey a more practical way for the reader (well, at least for me) to deal with the matter at hand. He and his family supposedly decided to live a year as if it's their last, and after a year of contemplating their lives in a rather general manner (ok, seeking and giving forgiveness and preparing themselves n ...more
Michael-David Sasson
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
I'm in a one-year exploration of death organized around this book, led by and hosted at Spirit Rock

The teacher is better than most North American convert teachers in being able to support weaving relationships and mutual support on the path, making sangha an embodied concept that extends far beyond the teachers relationships with each other. It is very much appreciated!

I mention it here because absent that support and structure, it
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Squishy and woo-woo in places, but if you can get past this and ingest the central ideas of this book, you'll find it enormously clarifying and helpful. I read this book some 15 years ago, but while rereading it this time around (when I'm considerably older) I found it to have even more value. The book imposes a paradoxical sense of calm and urgency on the reader to make the most of the present, to make the most of what you have now, and to think about what's coming in a deeply accepting way. Wo ...more
May 21, 2018 added it
Shelves: nonfiction
Loved the poetic simplicity/complexity of his prose. And he offers so many ways for us to think about the life/death continuum as an opportunity to embrace the now.
Dec 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
I dearly love the concept that propels this book. Stephen Levine and his wife spent decades providing grief counseling to concentration camp survivors, war veterans, hospice patients, and many others. He brings that experience and unique perspective to "A Year to Live", in which he proposes a revolutionary act: to practice living the next year of one's life as if it were your final 365 days.

It's an exercise in gratitude, awareness, facing fear, and deciding what matters most in one's life. He g
Oct 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who will die someday
Recommended to drozda by: s. wasserman
I suppose it's no surprise to hear that a book about the end of life was not an easy read, however it was more the writing style than the subject that made this a slow go for me. I felt it to be a a positive assignment and an obviously important topic so I kept at it till the end.
Levine has worked for decades helping people to adjust their thinking and release their demons so as to approach life's close as a natural leave taking.

He says on page 85, "It takes a thousand moments of remembering fo
Renee Legris
Apr 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: spiritual-path
The basic theme is very intriguing, and of course relevant to every human being. What bothered me is that Stephen needed an editor with a firmer hand with grammar. Incomplete sentences, tangled clauses, unclear refer-backs. It got very frustrating - if I hadn't been reading it with a group I might have bailed. Eventually the key turned out to be deciding to think of him as a poet rather than a prose writer. Then all the idiosyncratic constructions were just "art"!

I'm not at all saying that he d
Jan 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
I thought this would be interesting, but it was not. It's essentially a self-help book with many touchy-feely exercises, like "create a song of yourself," so unless you're already into that kind of thing, i wouldn't suggest you spend your precious last year reading this. instead, read some damn good fiction, take some drugs, get beat up or beat someone up (or both), and breathe deeply. ...more
Nancy Long
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Loved this book! I will return to it again and again...
Apr 07, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I only read the first 60 pages; not the book for me right now. This seems to be a book about meditation. A couple of passages that spoke to me:
p 43 ". . . one day we will realize how much of our life is a compulsive attempt to escape discomfort. We are motivated more by an aversion to the unpleasant than by a will toward truth, freedom, or healing. We are constantly attempting to escape our life, to avoid rather than enter our pain, and we wonder why it is so difficult to be fully alive. As Jack
Timothy Phillips
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
When life today is precarious, filled with so much uncertainty, we can feel lost. I first read Stephen Levine’s book when I was going through a stage of what I describe as my mid-life crisis. I wasn’t dying in a literal sense but was questioning my life’s path. This is now my re-read of this book. I also bought a new copy for a colleague recently retired, feeling at loose ends and wondering what he wants to do with the rest of his life.

What would you do if you had one year to live? Another part
Ellen Rennels
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Another instance where "liking" the book is beside the point. I have a whole lot of mortality anxiety issues which is why I read Levine's books, and I find them worthwhile, but can't really say I like them. This one is a slim volume which could indicate that it's a quick and easy read, however, for me that was not the case. As usual, Levine's writing is beautiful, poetic, and reading it is really like a meditation. That is no small feat when you are writing about some real unpleasantnesses. Ther ...more
Mark Isaak
May 27, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is a hodgepodge of poetry, mysticism, psychobabble, myth, superstition, and sound advice. I get the impression that Levine lives in a self-help subculture which is rather different -- and quite detached -- from the lives of most Americans. Much of what he writes will be hard for people outside that culture to relate to, and he makes little effort to help them relate or to give them a reason to want to. Even anecdotal evidence for his programs is sparse, and solid evidence is completely ...more
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Steven Levine writes not only to the heart of the problem with the fear of death and dying, but he gives practical suggestions on how to live a more fulfilling and contented life. He suggests practices for meditation that guide you through understanding how we approach life (our emotions and thoughts) and how we can learn to approach life in a healthier way through intelligence. I could never look at violence on the t.v. because it brought up fear for me. Through his logical approach, this helps ...more
Matt Harris
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful - partly read this book and partly listened to the audiobook on audible, because Stephen Levine's voice is very moreish. He's obviously lived for so long with death and dying top of mind and his experience and openness comes through.

Lots of Buddhist, Hindu and Zen influences but also Christian, Jewish, Islam and scientific information. Aetheists won't be put off either I think.

I'll be working with this book for a year... month by month, meeting with a small group and discussing it. Wh
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: retirement-aging
A Year To Live: How To Live This Year As If It Were Your Last

If there is a single definition of healing it is to enter with mercy and awareness those pains, mental and physical, from which we have withdrawn in judgement and dismay. 48

When all that matters is the deepening of wisdom and compassion for the light and warmth it brings to the eternal moment we share with all that is, we won’t even have to pack for the journey. Everything will take care of itself with unexpected grace.
Death is
Charlotte Bidard
Sep 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Practicing dying is something that is definitely interesting and it helped me refocusing on what's really important. His message is quite optimistic and positive and It’s not the kind of book that you read in 1 day or two, in fact, it took me a long time to finish it I hope to remember this book when I have a year to live, but I am not sure that the book is very realistic..... I felt like he was rambling on and on and yet saying nothing but the same thing: I met people that were dying, they beca ...more
Ashu Shah
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very nice book, lots to contemplate on despite it's small number of pages. I greatly enjoyed Stephen Levine's writing style, poetic and to the point at the same time. I was inspired to read this book when I read Dharma Punx, but Noah Levine. This book really challenges you to consider living one year of your life as if it were your last. Very uplifting and inspiring on what most people would consider at the surface as a dark topic. Nothing could be further from the truth. ...more
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, Levine gave me much to think about. I especially valued Levine's observation that when we are dying, we are most present. This makes sense to me. When our time is short, perhaps we do not dwell on the past. Nor do we worry much about the future. I played with this concept in my mediation practice, imagining that the practice would be my last. This deepened the meditation in a way I had not anticipated. ...more
Robyn Fallshaw
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Interesting to read. Most of us have a level of fear around our own death and the death of those who are important in our lives. This book takes you through many ideas and processes to better prepare for death. It is for everyone, as the sooner we prepare for our own death the better we will live our lives each day. It is in the remembering that we all die that life can take on greater meaning and purpose. So the book isn’t really about dying it is about living well.
Mar 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Gave a quick read to get an overview of the last year to live process. Felt inspired to experiment with this in my own life and engage with the practices described in the book. Now going back through a closer read of the material.
I don't feel it's a book to read, check off my "yeah, I read that list" and then forget about it. It needs to be revisited regularly and actively engaged with to give the material the best chance to be life-changing.
Maybe I should review in another year!
You will think about each day differently after you’ve read this book

This book I have read two times through. I am currently in a Group that is going through this book bit by bit. I highly recommend it to anyone who is wanting more, needing more, seeking more. For me it’s about reevaluating this lifetime my presence here and my purpose. When it is my time to leave… I don’t want to leave anything undone…
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read this book as part of a course. I enjoyed parts of this book. I really enjoyed the 'soft belly' exercises, sending loving kindness to self as you would to others, some attitudes about death not being the event that 'does our work for us and sets us free' and rather that it is us who have to do the work to set ourselves free. ...more
Phil Ellenberger
Stephen does it well

He spent a great deal of his life helping people deal with their earthly existence He wrote a lot about that existence I have read o any of his books ,so it was a easy session to pick up this one. It is in this grumpy old man's thought lately As with the others,it helps trod th path.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
I may not have been in the correct frame of mind when I read this. I wanted to get a few key messages but they seemed lost in the text. I gathered it is important to live as if there is only one year to live and there were a few suggestions on how to do so, for those of us not burdened with a life threatening illness.
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting exploration of what meditation and Buddhist philosophy have to offer the contemplation of one's inevitable death. It's a subject I have been mulling over a great deal on my own, without much guidance, and without sharing my thoughts with others. This book offers certain ideas and practices that may help. ...more
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American poet, author and teacher best known for his work on death and dying.

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