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The End of Your Life Book Club Paperback – June 4, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0307739780 ISBN-10: 0307739783 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307739783
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307739780
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,265 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2012: Tissues at the ready, I braced myself for The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe’s memoir of his mother’s death from pancreatic cancer. But Mary Anne Schwalbe is such a fierce, unsentimental heroine--and her son such a frank and funny storyteller--that what could have been an emotional roller coaster turns out to be a beautifully paced ride. Mary Anne loves a good book as ardently as she loves her kids and her causes, chief among them a campaign to build a library in Afghanistan. When her health starts to fail, Will joins her for hospital appointments. They wait, they talk, and they read together--everything they’ve ever wanted to discuss. As much an homage to literature as to the mother who shared it with him, Will’s chronicle of this heartrending time opens up his captivating family to the rest of us. We should all be so lucky as to read along with the Schwalbes. --Mia Lipman

Amazon Exclusive: An Essay by Will Schwalbe

Will Schwalbe

For twenty-one years I worked in book publishing, mostly in editorial, acquiring the rights to manuscripts, working with authors to help shape their works, and trying to convince the world to pay attention to the various, wonderful books we were publishing. I learned from some of the all time great editors and publishers. But part of my publishing education went way, way back – to before I could read a word myself.

When I was a young child, before I went to sleep, my mother, like so many parents, would read me a book. My brother, eighteen months older, got his own book read to him. Later, my sister, four years younger, would have her own.

My mother was a working mother (a phrase she always disliked, as she rightly pointed out that no one talks of “working fathers”), so she wasn’t always home at night. She sometimes worked late, and she travelled for business, and, even when she and my dad were in town, they occasionally were out for dinner. But if she was home, she read us each a book before bed.

My early favorites included The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and Harold and Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. I loved that there was a bull who liked to smell flowers and wouldn’t fight, and I was amazed by the boy who could draw himself out of any jam. But the experience was far more than the books themselves. First, there was the comfort and security of being tucked into bed. (Is it coincidence that we use the phrase “tuck into” before three of my favorite things: food, bed, and good books, or is it because the pleasures of each have so much in common?) Then, there was the happy, selfish knowledge that, when it was my turn, I would be able to monopolize my mother’s attention just by sitting and listening.

But what I remember most is the way Mom made us feel that she was sharing something she loved with us, not completing a chore or performing a ritual. (Though I’m sure there were many nights when she was exhausted and would have loved to be in bed herself and fast asleep.) And when we shared the books, we also shared discussions about them. Why didn’t the men understand that Ferdinand just didn’t want to fight? There’s no one answer, but it’s a question Mom and I explored together time and again.

Later, I would start to read to myself of course. But it was the nightly reading with Mom that helped me become a reader – and probably pushed me toward the career in book publishing. From Mom, I learned that there’s a public pleasure in books as well as a private one; that sharing books you love and getting others to read them can create a powerful bond, not just between a parent and child, but among thousands or millions of strangers.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“A graceful, affecting testament to a mother and a life well lived.” —Entertainment Weekly, Grade A

 “Schwalbe . . . highlights not just how relevant but how integral literature can be to life.” —The Washington Post

“[This] book is robust with love and laughter.” —Chicago Tribune
 
“Not only a son’s heartfelt tribute to [his mother’s] courage and grace but vivid testimony to the enduring power of books to create meaning out of chaos, illuminate values, and connect us with each other.” —The Boston Globe

“A loving celebration of a mother by a son.” —The New York Times Book Review

“A book that is expressly about books, about the purpose and pleasures of books, and the ways they connect us even as we read them as a solitary pursuit. . . . [It’s also] about, in part, the consolations we can find in art, books in particular, as we struggle to face the terrible awareness of our own mortality.” —The Plain Dealer

“Moving.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

“An account of growing up in a bookish, artistic family, and a touching portrait of his energetic mother. . . . The [reading] choices that emerge are not a bucket list but an engagingly eclectic mixture of current and vintage, literary and commercial.” —The New Yorker

“Uplifting. . . . So much life is lived, and such powerful lessons are shared on this family’s journey that the reader can’t help but be moved and motivated.” —Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Schwalbe’s enthusiasm turns out to be contagious. As I was reading I found myself scribbling titles on a piece of paper so that I could order the volumes he and his mother cared about. Schwalbe is not just an avid reader, he is also an advocate, a cheerleader, a disciple.” —Rachel Shteir,  The New York Times

 “A warm reminder why we read and what our reading says about us and the ways we connect with others.” —The Columbus Dispatch

“Completely engaging and difficult to put down. Hearing Schwalbe recount the effects that one selfless and loving person can have on the world is sad without being depressing, and deeply inspirational on a personal level to every imaginable reader.” —The Independent

“Touching and rigorously honest, this memoir is wise about the role reading plays in our lives and deaths.”—Slate

 “The most moving memoir of the year.” —Sacramento Bee

“A tribute to a remarkable woman and an examplary reader.” —Salon

“A gentle, searingly moving memoir, at once a love letter and a generous, incisive set of instructions not about how to die but about how to live.” —More


More About the Author

Will Schwalbe has worked in publishing (most recently as senior vice president and editor in chief of Hyperion Books); digital media, as the founder and CEO of Cookstr.com; and as a journalist, writing for various publications including The New York Times and the South China Morning Post. He is on the boards of Yale University Press and the Kingsborough Community College Foundation. He is the coauthor, with David Shipley, of Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better.

Customer Reviews

Will and his Mom share a love of books and teach us all about life and death.
ronald d hanna
Will Schwalbe pays loving tribute to his mother, Mary Anne, and the books they shared in "The End of Your Life Book Club."
E. Bukowsky
Book is very well written..really enjoy this authors writing style and transparency...writes how he thinks.
Piper A. Barton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

342 of 351 people found the following review helpful By Tina Says VINE VOICE on July 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This latest Amazon Vine read had me totally engrossed from its very beginning. Will Schwalbe's mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer - Stage IV cancer that originated in the pancreas and metastasized. While juggling chemo treatments she continues to lead an active life, rarely slowing down for the side effects of her treatment. Although the Schwalbe family was always a family of readers, it is the time Will and his mother spend together as she receives treatment that the two talk about books they read in the past as well as titles they agreed to now read together.
This is one of those books that made me want to highlight important points and be sure to make note of some aspects as I read. One of those is that although this book is about the books that Will and his mother read, it is also a memoir of sorts. Will's mother, Mary Ann, was an amazing woman. She worked outside the home before many other mothers did so and was a great fundraiser and humanitarian. Her most recent quest was building a library in Afghanistan. She was well traveled, volunteering in many dangerous locations, not afraid to get her hands dirty. The pride Will feels for his mother is evident, and I was also amazed by this woman's accomplishments.
Although I haven't read more than a few of the books that Schwalbe and his mother read and discuss, that did not detract from the pleasure of reading this book. If anything, it has caused me to add a few more titles to my ever-growing list.
Before you begin reading, it is evident that this will not be a happily ever after ending. Yet, The End of Your Life Book Club is not really a sad story. Will Schwalbe is able to show readers the impact of his mother's life. He was also able to show the real and lasting impact her reading had on her and her children and grandchildren. This is a beautiful tribute to the remarkable Mary Ann Schwalbe.
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182 of 194 people found the following review helpful By Chel Micheline TOP 100 REVIEWER on August 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I usually avoid sad books like the plague- I'm a fairly sensitive person so I try to read things that won't devastate me and I despise authors that use difficult situations to either "sell" a story of manipulate the reader. However, I'm a huge huge fan of "project" books, and I love reading, so I figured I'd give "The End of Your Life Book Club" a try and stop reading if it got to be too much.

I honestly couldn't put it down- it's a really wonderful book.

The backstory is this: Will Schwalbe's mom, Mary, is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which (as the doctor says) is "treatable but not curable". Will vows to be as supportive to his mom as he can. But Mary isn't your typical middle-aged woman- this is a woman who has been on the frontlines of some of the most volatile areas on the earth, championing human rights, education, and literacy. She's also a sort of buttoned-up and reserved soul, not one to expound much on her feelings or emotions. She faces her illness with sort of a brisk honesty.

Will realizes that the best way he can support his mom, engage her, and open up the lines of communication is to share in one of Mary's passions- books. Will is a editor at a major publishing company, so he's quite a fan of books, as well.

So he and Mary begin sharing books, and every time the two see each other, they discuss the books they read. In the process, Mary begins to reveal more and more about not only her vast experiences, but also her emotions and her fears.

I've read quite a few "book project" books and many of them come across as an giant compiled Cliff's Notes of books that are read.
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149 of 162 people found the following review helpful By Patricia TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book had me at the title: The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. Anything about reading books or about dying gets my attention - and this titled combined them! Be forewarned - this book is likely to cost you quite a bit of money. Not because of the price of the book but because you will pick up at least 8 to 10 "can't live without it" titles in it that you will HAVE to buy.

Often books about lists of books disappoint me but this one was definitely worth it. The author works in publishing, media and writing, so he knows books and literature. His mother, whom he adores, is dying of pancreatic cancer. She too was a voracious reader. They always exchanged books but in her illness they form a secret book club of two to discuss what they are reading during the long chemo sessions (he goes to most with her). Rest assured, she is not just some little wimp of a woman with cancer - she has a powerful resume: well educated, a working mother all her married life, was dean of admissions for Harvard and Radcliff, directed a number of exclusive schools and did massive (and I mean massive) humanitarian work. She lived in many places (London, Paris) and travelled the world for her causes: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa - lived in dangerous places to do her work. She was part of the founding of the IRC - International Rescue Committee (a favorite charity of mine), was shot at, starved, got all sorts of diseases from her travels but she was a survivor. Her final work was building a library with mobile units in Afghanistan. She travelled all over the US raising money and she worked on this project almost to her dying breath. And she raised a big family. And through all of this she read voraciously.
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