Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Book Review: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Every now and then you come across a story that has to be shared, that is so extraordinary that you feel the emotions of the protagonist as the story goes along. One such story is that of Prof. Randy Pausch, now deceased due to pancreatic cancer. Prof. Pausch was a distinguished man of science; he was a professor of computer science and a consultant to various companies like Google, Disney, etc. His was a charming and dynamic personality that enthralled everyone who met. Unfortunately he was diagnosed with a serious disease and given a few months to live. Instead of brooding about what he could have achieved or what his family would go through, he decided to devote his remaining time on this planet to plan how his kids would remember him, how he could leave behind a solid legacy for them to follow, and tried to execute his plan, which he did admirably. The book under review, ‘The Last Lecture’ was the result of all these plans.

It is a time and tested tradition in academia for professors to deliver a farewell lecture before they retire. In Randy’s case, this came in the form of his death sentence. The book essentially tells us what he spoke about in this last lecture of his, but it is not limited to only that. In the book, he explains all the nuances of his life and the hardships that he had to entail in order to get to the position he was in. The book is the story of a remarkable man who followed his childhood dreams and those dreams led him to where he stood at that point in time. Randy told about how he met his wife, how he had the chance to change the life of so many of his students and how he wished he lived long enough to see his young kids grow up. If ever there is an award for being so happy with life, then that would surely be Randy’s award. Like everyone else he had regrets and missed opportunities, but what he did with the things at hand is awe-inspiring and truly amazing.

The book is written in a narrative that will make the readers feel at ease. In spite of knowing that the author is no more, the reader will be able to empathize with him; will be able to feel his joy, his mirth or his tears in equal details. The book is meant to be a guide for Randy’s children and is written in a sort of philosophical sense. But that is not the impression one gets when one reads the book. This book can be read by anyone who wishes to read an amazing story or who wants some good life points. The book takes up serious issues and imparts knowledge and advice that would come in handy to anyone in life. Randy has indeed done a tremendous job and I am sure his children have benefited greatly from readin what their father had to say to them.

An immensely readable book, that ought to be on the book shelf of every academic, every student and everyone who is interested in good stories. Well written, lucid and to the point; the author deserves all the accolades that we can shower. In fact, the videotaped lecture is also available online that would go as a good companion to the book. As for me, I have only one wish; that wherever Randy is today, he is content and happy.

Title: The Last Lecture: Lessons in Living

Author: Randy Pausch (with Jeffrey Zaslow)

Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton

Price: Rs. 295

Rating: 4/5

[This review was published here.]