The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch
Jeffrey Zaslow
Glued Hardcover
Number of pages: 
206 pages
Grade / Age level: 

What would you do if you knew you were going to die? For most of us, that is a reality that we push to the back of our minds as someday, but not soon. In the case of Randy Pausch, that reality came much sooner than he expected with a diagnosis of terminal, pancreatic cancer. In The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, shares the PowerPoint presentation he gave as his last lecture on September 18, 2007.

Besides the salient points and accompanying stories from his lecture, The Last Lecture includes much more. Not in the least maudlin, The Last Lecture is a book about daring to dream the impossible and achieving those dreams. It is a book of hope and inspiration. He opens the story with the reasons that motivated him to consider this last lecture, then delves back into the past to show the many influences on his life’s journey, especially his remarkable, loving parents, mentors, teachers, or coaches who profoundly influenced his life.

Each chapter is short and to the point. While it would be easy, as with any autobiography, to fall into the trap of naval gazing, it is a refreshingly honest portrait of his life and life’s situation, his strengths and human failings.

In a world filled with negative news, it is uplifting to read his genuine love and admiration for his parents and those who encouraged him along the way, as well as had the honesty to point out his faults, so that he could become a better person.

The book is broken down into five sections: The story behind the last lecture, achieving his dreams, the lessons he learned, enabling the dreams of others, “It’s about How to Live Your Life,” and closing thoughts.

With humor, wit, and common sense, Pausch relates his quest for happiness through achieving his childhood dreams. Over the years, he has gained much wisdom, from his parents, mentors, teachers, and students. His advice as a teacher can be applied to many situations.

In The Last Lecture, he shares this legacy of memories, hopes, and advice for his three young children to see someday. As a teacher, he wanted to continue to teach them long after he was not with them; the result was this inspiring lecture about the joy of life; each day is a gift.

Incredibly uplifting, full of hope and inspiration!

Thank you, Randy for sharing your story. Thank you, Jai for sharing Randy during your precious time together.

Randy Pausch died on July 25, 2008.

Because this is a secular book with a few adult issues, the parent will want to read and discuss this with their teenage children.

If you choose to view the lecture on YouTube, since the lecture is prepared for college-age students, the parents may want to preview it to determine the appropriate age of the children who are viewing it because of some language.

Additional notes: 

His last lecture can be viewed on YouTube: Randy Pausch The Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.

In order to appeal to a wider audience, he avoids how his faith played a role in the development of his character.

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