The Last Lecture

( 861 )

Overview

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."
—Randy Pausch

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 ...

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Overview

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."
—Randy Pausch

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.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Over the years, numerous professors have given talks entitled "The Last Lecture." For Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch, however, the topic was no mere formality. When he presented his "last lecture" to hundreds of faculty and students last September, he already knew that he had metastatic pancreatic cancer. Despite a grim prognosis, Dr. Pausch delivered an upbeat, urgent call for his listeners to achieve their childhood dreams. Since then, this good-natured computer science specialist has become a worldwide celebrity; named "Person of the Week" by ABC News and invited to be a guest on Oprah. This memoir recounts the story of a brave man's encounter with a sense of his own mortality. An inspiring message for anyone who ages.
Publishers Weekly

Made famous by his "Last Lecture" at Carnegie Mellon and the quick Internet proliferation of the video of the event, Pausch decided that maybe he just wasn't done lecturing. Despite being several months into the last stage of pancreatic cancer, he managed to put together this book. The crux of it is lessons and morals for his young and infant children to learn once he is gone. Despite his sometimes-contradictory life rules, it proves entertaining and at times inspirational. Surprisingly, the audiobook doesn't include the reading of Pausch's actual "Last Lecture," which he gave on September 18, 2007, a month after being diagnosed. Erik Singer provides an excellent inflective voice that hints at the reveries of past experiences with family and children while wielding hope and regret for family he will leave behind. The first CD is enhanced with photos. Simultaneous release with the Hyperion hardcover. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401323257
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 4/8/2008
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 25,235
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.25 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Randy Pausch was a Professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. From 1988-1997, he taught at the University of Virginia. He was an award-winning teacher and researcher, and worked with Adobe, Google, Electronic Arts (EA), and Walt Disney Imagineering, and pioneered the Alice project. Although Pausch lost his cancer battle on July 25, 2008, his legacy lives on through The Last Lecture.

Jeffrey Zaslow, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, attended the last lecture, and wrote the story that helped fuel worldwide interest in it. He lives in suburban Detroit with his wife, Sherry, and daughters Jordan, Alex and Eden.

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Table of Contents

I The Last Lecture 1

II Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams 19

III Adventures... and Lessons Learned 55

IV Enabling the Dreams of Others 105

V It's About How to Live Your Life 129

VI Final Remarks 199

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Introduction

I have an engineering problem.

While for the most part I'm in terrific physical shape, I have ten tumors in my liver and have only a few months left to live.

I am a father of three young children, and married to the woman of my dreams. While I could easily feel sorry for myself, that wouldn't do them, or me, any good.

So, how to spend my very limited time?

The obvious part is being with, and taking care of, my family. While I still can, I embrace every moment with them, and do the logistical things necessary to ease their path into a life without me.

The less obvious part is how to teach my children what I would have taught them over the next twenty years. They are too young now to have those conversations. All parents want to teach their children right from wrong, what we think is important, and how to deal with the challenges life will bring. We also want them to know some stories from our own lives, often as a way to teach them how to lead theirs. My desire to do that led me to give a "last lecture" at Carnegie Mellon University.

These lectures are routinely videotaped. I knew what I was doing that day. Under the ruse of giving an academic lecture, I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children. If I were a painter, I would have painted for them. If I were a musician, I would have composed music. But I am a lecturer. So I lectured.

I lectured about the joy of life, about how much I appreciated life, even with so little of my own left. I talked about honesty, integrity, gratitude, and other things I hold dear. And I tried very hard not to be boring.

This book is a way for me to continue what I began on stage. Because time is precious, and I want to spend all that I can with my kids, I asked Jeffrey Zaslow for help. Each day, I ride my bike around my neighborhood, getting exercise crucial for my health. On fifty-three long bike rides, I spoke to Jeff on my cell-phone headset. He then spent countless hours helping to turn my stories—I suppose we could call them fifty-three "lectures"—into the book that follows.

We knew right from the start: None of this is a replacement for a living parent. But engineering isn't about perfect solutions; it's about doing the best you can with limited resources. Both the lecture and this book are my attempts to do exactly that.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 861 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(572)

4 Star

(170)

3 Star

(64)

2 Star

(34)

1 Star

(21)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 864 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 6, 2008

    Don't believe the hype!

    The Last Lecture certainly garnered quite a bit of popularity over the last year. Personally, I heard about the book from friends, bosses, coworkers, and classmates; every literate person I knew seemed to be raving out the book. Not wanting to be left behind in the literary scene, I recently chose to read the book for myself. <BR/> <BR/>I can't say that I disliked the book. Jeffrey Zaslow did a fine job converting Pausch's actual lecture into an easy-to-read series of stories. The stories themselves, however, were not the life-changing event that I anticipated. While it was striking at points to hear someone discuss death without even an ounce of fear or remorse, Pausch was not an entirely likable narrator. Too often his tales come across as arrogant and self-aggrandizing.<BR/> <BR/>At the book's end, upon reflecting on the book's various messages and themes, I found myself realizing that The Last Lecture had not taught me anything new. The book's messages, while important, are ones that have been told so many times in so many various capacities that they now feel more like cliches than new, profound musings. <BR/> <BR/>As I said, I did not dislike The Last Lecture. It was just another book that, for me, did not live up to its hype.

    42 out of 71 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Last Lecture

    "The Last Lecture" is a book filled with living-life-to-the-fullest advice from a college professor. While to some this might sound as interesting as reading a doctoral dissertation, you'd be surprised. <BR/><BR/>The author, Randy Pausch, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, writes so well that you'd probably let him teach you about computers too. Some things he talks about include: remember to laugh, seizing every moment, overcoming obstacles, appreciate the gifts you recieve, and enabling the dreams of others. <BR/><BR/>Although the author died this year, his wisdom will no doubt be around awhile in this very enlightening book. Other books in this genre I liked include "Finding Happiness in a Frustrating World".

    31 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2010

    Moving

    I saw Randy Pausch give "the last lecture" on television. It was very emotional, witty, and incredibly brave. When the book came out I had to get it. It adds to his lecture and expands our perspective on life. Great read.

    14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 6, 2010

    Disappointing

    I had heard so many good things about this book and finally had the chance to read it over the holiday. I cannot express how disappointed I was with the author. Throughout the book Randy talks about how he thinks so much of himself - or I should say how he used to think so much of himself until someone told him how unappealing it is as a personality trait. He said he changed. No...he did not. I was expecting a very enlightened look at life; given the fact he knew he was dying. Instead, the whole book was "I did this" and "because of me this person became successful". It went on and on in this manner to the point it made me sick. I could hardly finish the book but I continued to read it hoping for the enlightenment or at least for Randy to stop bragging. The only enriching statements he made were ones he quoted from his father. Actually, it is too bad his father did not write a book. I think I would have enjoyed that as his father was humble and smart. At the very end there were touching words about his children and what he hoped to leave for them but all in all, written as he lived his life - in a very egotistical way. Not worth the read and I don't get the hype.

    6 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2008

    Inspirationally Satisfying!

    Knowing this was truely his "last lecture" made it more compelling. It was an inspirational look at his life, what his dreams were and how he accomplished everything he wanted. It speaks to the reader about how we should motivate ourselves to live our dreams and that it is possible. Good book to read in one sitting!

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 5, 2012

    Inspirational and Thought Provoking

    I say believe the hype of this book. This book shows how to see the bright side of life and how to be mentally and emotionally strong. With his diagnosis he never felt sorry for himself; he only worried about how the lives’ of his young children, wife and many friends would be after he died. He never asked for pity, but instead asked for ways to help others and make his children remember him. Even though he might come off as arrogant at some points of the book I truly believe that he tried his best not to be. He is not trying to brag when he says he helped some people reach their dreams because people helped him reach his dreams. If he truly was arrogant he would state that he never took help but only gave. He realizes that sometimes people need help to reach their dreams. He knows the values of having giant dreams. I find it amazing that even with everything that has happened he finds the good in everything. He sees the hard work of his students and tries to make them even better. He knows there is good in every situation and person. The most motivation part of this book for me is his philosophy on “Brick Walls” or things that prevent us from getting what we want or dream to have. He explains that in any situation if you go at something with enough tenacity you can succeed in getting over and around the wall. However, never be afraid to ask for help to get around the brick walls of your life. This book is successful in touching the hearts of many and showing that life is good. This book can help you look at your self differently, making you realize how good life actually is. In the end, I would recommend this book to anyone and really hope that Randy’s message reaches all, especially his children.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2010

    A Thought-Provoking, Inspirational Story

    This book helped me to realign my priorities and shift my focus to what I should really be doing in my life. It is a sad book, yet written with a positive, upbeat tone, one that really gives you hope. May we all merit to make the most out of our days here on Earth, impacting the world in a positive sense and being there for our loved ones.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Breaking Down the Brick Walls

    Randy Pausch is a man anyone would recognize as "a renaissance man". He's a man that never really lost his way because he's had sight unintentionally set on adulthood since he was a kid. He didn't become lost like most of us do as we get older and get side tracked into careers like a lawyer, engineer, or some other clich&#233; job nowadays. He dreamed big when he was young, and more of his dreams came true in his short lifetime than most with a "full" life because he just never let go of those dreams.
    His scientific mind and extremely optimistic point of view is what helped get Pausch through the rest of his remaining life after being diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. He is a very accomplished teacher, Imagineer, loving husband, and father of 3 to name just a few of his completed dreams. The story goes on to talk about how truly important childhood dreams really are and how they link to becoming a better human being.
    Now I would like to think that a normal persons reaction to being diagnosed with a terminal illness would be a extremely over-the-top pity party. That is exactly how Pausch did not react. I definitely love Pausch's positive attitude throughout the his illness and the composing of the book and his last lecture. The book is extremely inspirational and it really makes you think about ways to handle your own life. Pausch is careful not to preach though, because to a critical mind he could definitely come across as that way. Instead, he really challenges you to be who you want to be and form your own values; he obviously brings up his own opinions, but it's meant for more "food for your thought" kind of translation and provides people with a general guidance to tapping into your knowledge and deciding what values and experiences speak through and about you.
    Nothing really negative to say about the book except the writing style I suppose. Now while Pausch conquered much in his life, and English Major was not among his feats. The writing style is rather jumpy. In one instance he may be talking about his family and kids, then jump to driving a convertible blasting the soundtrack to "The Lion King", then jump to intentionally pouring soda in the back seat of a car, then jump to being overcharged at a supermarket. All of which are extremely relevant to the overall theme, but until you finish the book, it seems rather choppy.
    If you're down for a good-feel read even with the main character dying, well, this book is for you. Pausch does an amazing job speaking to the general public about how dying...really isn't that bad. Because at least you have time to remember all the life you've had, the good and the bad, and you still get to look forward to what time you have left. To get the full effect of Randy Pausch's life, you can't just watch the lecture. While the actual lecture about Pausch's life, values, and experiences, the book The Last Lecture is a more in depth look at the crafting behind the lecture and his thought process. And both were intended for only his kids to begin with, but thousands of people have now been touched by Pausch's emotionally jerking yet inspiring story.
    The easiest read to compare The Last Lecture to is Mitch Albom's Tuesdays With Morrie simply because they both deal with a happy-go-lucky dying man with a lot to say before they finally go. The message in both speaks to the potential in all of us to lead a great life.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Somewhat Gloomy

    I'm not sure what I expected this book to be like, but had I known I think I would not have purchased it. It was almost a blow-by-blow of the author's death from pancreatic cancer. Having just lost my wife less than 2 years ago, I guess it was too soon for me to read something gloomy. Although my wife's death was very sudden and the author's was more protracted, I still found it depressing. I rated it has high as I did because it is a well written book. The professor had a somewhat unique sense of humor. I admire him for the things he did with and for his family in the months preceding his death. The book ends before his death, so I had to go online to find out that, yes, he did in fact pass on in July of 2008 I believe it was.<BR/> I will give the book to a friend and not request it's return. In future I will wait to purchase a book until after I have read the reviews here on B&N website. SQ

    4 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Inspiring, but...

    When Randy Pausch found out that he had terminal cancer and only a few months to live, he decided to give a “last lecture” providing insightful life advice about achieving goals and remaining optimistic. Everyone I have spoken to about this book absolutely loved it. Indeed, I found it very inspirational. He seems to have achieved all of his childhood dreams and managed to remain optimistic when he only had a few months left to live. However, it fell a bit short for me because his goals were so very different than my own. He was a self-proclaimed workaholic—ALL of his achieved goals were career driven. Apparently despite the wishes of his wife, he decided to spend a lot of time during his final months preparing this final high-impact lecture. The lecture was indeed a success. Good for him—clearly it was something he needed to do. But I hope I am never so focused on my career that I would spend the final months of my life working instead of spending time with my family and loved ones. Perhaps I am just pessimistic, but I seem to be the only one who found his story outwardly inspiring, but for the wrong reasons.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2010

    The Last Lecture Review For English 2

    Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who was asked to give a speech for the university in front of hundreds of people. Randy had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the doctors told him he only had a couple months to live. Randy and his wife discussed the speech, because if he worked on it he would not be able to spend much time with his family, but Randy pointed out that with this lecture he could leave a memory for his children when they grow up. Randy ended up doing the speech and titled it "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." The speech is online and anybody can see it. The lecture is filled with great humor, touching moments, and amazing advise.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 16, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    The Last Lecture

    I listened to Randy Pausch's lecture prior to reading this book. The book is a rehash of his moving lecture with some background details added. In some ways, I found the lecture more moving because Randy Pausch was such a terrific speaker. Sometimes the spoken word can have more impact than the written word. But I'm glad that I read this book just to remind me of what's important in life. Randy Pausch left us with a treasured testimonial.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2012

    Simply amazing

    I read this book for a class and instantly loved it! This book is so motivational and inspired me to live each day to its potential because life is a gift. Randy put so much of himself into this that i felt like i truly got to know him. I took so many life lessons away from this humerous read and it continues to inspire me months after i read it. This will stay with you forever and may even change your outlook on life. This is simply amazing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 14, 2012

    Great motivational book. It talks about living out your childhoo

    Great motivational book. It talks about living out your childhood dreams and enabling the dreams of others. It also is about the importance of writing thank you notes and show gratitude towards others. It is okay to ask to do/see something, the worse response from that can be &ldquo;no.&rdquo;

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 21, 2012

    The Last Lecture is a book that reflects on the author's (R

    The Last Lecture is a book that reflects on the author's (Randy Pausch's) life. The reason for this reflection is that he has only about 4-6 months to live. He has 10 pancreatic tumors. Randy works at a University and before he learned that he would soon die, he chose to do a traditional 'Last Lecture.' After he learns about his sad fate, he decides that he needs to do this last lecture so that he can leave behind his legacy for his young children, the eldest being only 5 years old.
    Randy Pausch jumps from one important section of his life to the next, each presenting a different lesson to be learned. It works really well even though it's not necessarily told like a traditional story in the sense it's not told in chronological order.
    The book doesn't have all that much excitement but it is very interesting hearing about Randy's life. It is elevated by the fact that Randy is diagnosed with this fatal cancer.
    Overall, I would recommend it to anyone who can read at an adept level. It provides a look into an interesting man's life and presents some life lessons along the way.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2012

    Great book

    I lovethis book. It taught me a lot about life. I wwould reccommend this book for all teenagers.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 30, 2011

    Sadly Disappointing

    While I feel for the man and his journey, the book just wasn't what I expected. It was not inspirational and really didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. Maybe I was expecting too much, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone as a 'must read'.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 26, 2010

    Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

    The Last Lecture was a very imporational book written by Randy Pausch. Randy Pausch had Pancreatic Cancer, the most deadly cancers in the male body. In this book, Randy talks about his dreams, and how he wanted and strived to accomplish them. Pausch says, "Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly they want something." Randy shows that he truly believes in this quote because he lives his life to the fullest. The book was inspired by the speach that he had to give to his students. Before retiring, Randy had to write this speech for the students about his life. He didn't chose to write about the demon that is slowly killing him. He wrote about how he loved his life, and he gave many examples of the happiness he had.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2010

    nice read

    I understand why Oprah put it on her book club list. It was very touching. It was an easy read which I liked. And its a perfect book to put i you purse and read while in line at the post office. I hope you like it as much as i did, I passed it on to my sibiling to read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2009

    Don't Bother

    It was pretty weak. It was a listing of his educational and work related accomplishments. I thought it was going to be inspiring and thought provoking. I don't recommed spending the time to read it - although it would only take about 2 hours to read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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