The Last Lecture: Randy Pausch’s Final Letter to His Children

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R E V I E W – B O O K

Sanim Subah

What do you do if one day you find out that you have only a few months left to live? Do you give in to death thinking what an unfair game life has played with you? Or do you accept death as it is, that is, an inevitable part of life, and make the most out of your time? 

Randy Pausch did the latter. In 2007, when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Randy, a loving husband to a beautiful wife and a father to three very young kids, decided to live the last few months of his life as he lived the rest, as a happy man content with life. The year before his death, Randy went on to give a lecture at Carnegie Mellon University, where he had been teaching computer science, human-computer interaction, and design for the last decade of his life. A lot of professors are asked to give lectures like that. The Last Lecture — those are called. Professors are asked to imagine their death and contemplate what wisdom they would want to impart to the world, what lesson they would convey to the people closest to them if they were to die soon.

However, Randy Pausch didn’t lecture about dying that day. His lecture — “really achieving your childhood dreams” — was in fact about living. It was about adventures and lessons of life, about enabling the dreams of your own and of others; it was about everything opposite of death.

The book The Last Lecture is an augmented version of Randy’s lecture. However, while the lecture can be a good motivational piece for the world, the book feels more personal. The lecture seems like a window for the world to look into the man’s life and his work, his policies, and philosophies of life, something to remember him by when he is not here. But as you start reading, you realise that his lecture was not for the world, not really. It was for his kids — Dylan, Logan, and Chloe. The book is just his attempt at being a father to three little kids who, at that point, were too young to remember their father after his death. And if you accept the book as just that, without looking for life-altering motivations, it will prove to be a wonderful read.

Usually, I am not a huge fan of self-improvement books, mostly because I was never good at taking plain advice. So I find it a little exhausting to read two hundred pages of advice that I have most definitely heard before, only to forget them again. But The Last Lecture was an exception in that aspect since, I believe, the author had no intention of imparting valuable knowledge to the readers. This is just another parent, talking to his children, hoping to prepare them a little before they get on with their lives. Most parents do that gradually over a course of ten to twenty years, while they witness their children grow up.

As Randy had not been given that chance, he squeezed that twenty years’ worth life lessons in one book. The anecdotes from his childhood, the peek into his marriage, his work with his students — everything feels as if a father were chatting with his kids while camping by the river. As a motivational book, it does not contain any highly impactful lessons that would change the lives of the readers.

But, think from a parent’s perspective and you will be able to feel the love that Randy poured in those pages. This book is purely a gift from a dying father to his children who didn’t want their only memory of him to be of his death. 


As a sleepyhead cinephile, Sanim has an old habit of falling asleep in between movie scenes. She claims to hate mass gatherings, yet loves to be crowded with huge piles of books.


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