Book Review: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Book cover of The Last Lecture by Randy PauschThe Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (2008)
206 pages
Goodreads Summary: A lot of professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can’t help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave–”Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”–wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

This book definitely packs a punch.  Even if the content weren’t that great, it’s hard not to feel even a little bit emotional over a book written by a dying man.  I think if he wrote out his grocery list I’d still read it and get teary-eyed, thinking to myself how those were the last foods he bought or even ate.

So I think a huge component of this books success is that emotional aspect.  I say that because I’ve been hearing amazing things about it for some time but when I read it I wasn’t that blown away.  Perhaps my expectations were too high and I was expecting something that no book can really give.

The book chronicles Pausch’s life and how he accomplished so many of his childhood dreams.  No doubt he was incredibly fortunate to have loving parents, a happy childhood, and a very successful career.  He also seems to genuinely care about people and helping them achieve their dreams.

In the second half of the book Pausch offers some advice that he’s learned over the years on how to succeed in life and accomplish your own goals.  Some of his advice includes: how to apologize (because a bad apology is worse than none at all), to be honest, never give up, ask for what you want, and have fun.  This is the part of the book where I was expecting him to impart some miraculous advice I’d never thought of or hand me the key to the universe so I could become just as successful.  But really, most of his advice just seems like common sense.

I’m constantly trying to improve myself and that includes reading books like this.  But I think I’ve read so many other books which are similar that there isn’t anything that really surprises me anymore.  How many keys to success are there that haven’t already been written about?  Most people already know them by now and that’s why I wasn’t impressed with this book and felt it didn’t live up to its hype.

I still enjoyed the read and there were some ideas in it which were new to me.  Overall it wasn’t as astounding as I’d heard and the lesson I’ve taken away is that no book can really tell you something so magical that it’ll immediately transform your life.  You have to put in the work and achieve things for yourself.

After I read the book I went ahead and watched the video of his lecture.  My boyfriend had actually sent it to me a long time ago and that’s how I first heard of it.  But I put off watching it until after I’d read the book.  My advice is to pick one, either the book or the video, but not both.  They are very similar and as I watched, I knew what was coming and it wasn’t that interesting.

Have you heard of Randy Pausch?  Have you read the book or watched his lecture?  What are your thoughts?  What’s the best life advice/self-help book you’ve ever read?  What advice would you give in your own last lecture?

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4 Responses to Book Review: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

  1. RachelBradford says:

    I wasn’t blown away by The Last Lecture, either. I found his strength during that difficult time inspirational, but I also felt that he spent way too much time of his last days organizing this lecture instead of spending time with his family. I could write a whole minireview of my thoughts here, but I’ve already written one on my blog. :)
    I felt like a hard-hearted witch that I wasn’t more inspired…but there it is. ;)

    • Book Nympho says:

      I read your review and I’m with you. I think it’s great how he stayed so positive but I wouldn’t say he was living life to the fullest. Then again, maybe he was, just in his own way.

  2. Pingback: September Reading Summary | Book Nympho

  3. stacybuckeye says:

    I read this book a few years ago and thought it was good.  Like you, I thought it was full of good common sense.  Definitely worth a re-read someday.

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