The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

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Randy Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 46, when his youngest daughter was just 3 months old. As a well-known computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, he was a world leader in virtual reality training. But the focus of his last lecture to the university is not about programming a computer: It’s about how to live life. In Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, Randy tells his three young children what it means to be happy, despite the odds, and what it means to truly live. His words, given with his own death date in mind, may inspire everyone.

I had never heard of Randy Pausch until he passed away on July 25, 2008. My husband was watching “The Last Lecture” via the Internet, and I saw a little of it. When I saw the book this week sitting on my mother’s coffee table, I picked it up. I couldn’t stop reading it.

Randy’s trials were incredibly challenging. In August 2007, just one month before he delivered his last lecture, he found out that his cancer was terminal; he had three-to-six months to live. Yet his optimism in the lecture and in his book reveals his true passion for living.

I don’t know how not to have fun. I’m dying and I’m having fun. And I’m going to keep having fun every day I have left. Because there’s no other way to play it. (page 179)

Randy Pausch died nine months after he delivered his memorable lecture, three months longer than his diagnosis. His enthusiasm for life seems to have remained until the end of his life.

I’d highly recommend reading this best-seller or at least watching his inspiring talk. Visit for more information about Randy Pausch, his lecture, and his Carnegie Mellon University virtual reality legacy. You can also find more information about helping fight pancreatic cancer.

If you found you had three-to-six months left to live, would you remain positive, even in the midst of the pain of chemotherapy? I don’t know how I would be. But most importantly, what would you share with your family and friends?

I don’t know how I would be. But I certainly hope I could reemphasize to my family the great things that we enjoy by being alive. That positive hope is the message I got from Randy Pausch.

Reviewed on September 5, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • Kathy, me too! Natasha, it could have been “cheesy” but this one wasn’t! It never would have occurred to him to write a book; he is too down to earth. It was just others who encouraged him to put it together. I think it was incredibly inspiring and a quick read!

  • My bookclub is reading this in a few months (although I think I’ll try to listen it). Glad you liked it–I saw his interview with Diane Sawyer a few months ago and was really touched.

  • Trish, I found that listening and reading were kind of different; the book has lots of thoughts he didn’t talk about in the lecture. I’d recommend both watching it and reading it. It’s a very quick read.

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