Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club

Book #2 for my 2013 Book Project is "The End of Your Life Book Club" by Will Schwalbe

What makes a book "good"? This is a very personal and subjective question. The story that doesn't leave you when you close your book at the end of the night. The characters you can almost hear in your mind. The emotions the author manipulates you into feeling. The book that is always on your mind and you can't wait to get back to. The one that asks tough questions and makes you ponder over your own life and choices. The one that changes your life just a bit.

"The End of Your Life Book Club" is definitely a good book. It did for me all the things I mentioned and a little more. The story itself was touching - a son writing about the years in his life where his mom was diagnosed with cancer and then slowly passed away. The story is of a man who loved and admired this woman whom he had a hard time picturing not being in his life. And it made me think of life without my parents and I cringed as many times as the thought crossed me. No matter what age we are our parents have a special place in us. They gave us our life and taught us the first few things in life - they are our guardians, friends, and loves forever. But what happens when we start getting to that age when we have kids and grandkids? Does it mean they mean less to us? Does it mean just because we are all older it doesn't matter whether they are not around? None of the above. I think we progressively get closer to our parents with age and time. Because we slowly start to arrive in the places they have already been - we go through experiences they have already had. We understand them, gain a bit of their wisdom, and mainly learn to appreciate them.

Schwalbe did just that - he appreciated his mom - through the book he wrote, through the books they discussed, through the illness she developed and had to fight hard against. Their relationship in her last years was based on the books they read together. The books are all mentioned in this book and sort of guide them through the tough times. Books are such an important part of our life. They come at these moments when we need them the most - some to cheer us up, some to give inspiration, and some to humble us. Books give us direction, give us hope, guide us and slowly shape us. The books we read and the way we think of the stories contained within these books - fiction or nonfiction - in a way define who we really are. Can we experience the emotions, can we understand the human behavior expressed, can we sympathize? These are the questions certain books ask us - and by reading and feeling a certain way, we learn something about ourselves.

There were a lot of moments in this book where I paused to think about a particular comment Will or his mom made about a book - where I looked up the book they were talking about and added it to Amazon wish list - where I just had to underline the passage because I didn't want to forget it. One such passage towards the end had a profound effect on me. It mentioned something about all of us being in "it" together. That you never knew what would be the last book you read, the last conversation you had. This made me think of the cliche "Live life like every moment is your last" but it also made me think beyond. As a bibliophile especially it made me stop dead in my tracks to realize that every book I read could be my last. I love my husband, parents, other family and friends - but they know that and I try to mention it to the ones closest to me as often as possible. So that doesn't worry me too much. But what about the books? All of these books I have yet to read. What if the one I read next is my last? Or the one after, or after that? Not only did Schwalbe's book give me suggestions for some great books to read, it made me realize that each book I choose means potentially giving up all the others I could choose. Mind boggling, isn't it? How do you make decisions on what to read after realizing that? Very carefully, indeed.

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