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The End of Your Life Book Club

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


“What are you reading?”

That’s the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a humanitarian trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan suffering from what her doctors believed was a rare type of hepatitis. Months later she was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less.

This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying.

Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other—and rediscover their lives—through their favorite books. When they read, they aren’t a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together. The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will’s love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page. 

This eBook edition includes a Reading Group Guide. 

From Publishers Weekly

Jul 16, 2012 – Sharing books he loved with his savvy New Yorker mom had always been a great pleasure for both mother and son, becoming especially poignant when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007, at age 73. Schwalbe, founder of and former editor-in-chief of Hyperion, along with his father and siblings, was blindsided by the news; his mother, Mary Ann Schwalbe, had been an indomitable crusader for human rights, once the director of admissions at Harvard, and a person of enormous energy and management skills. Could a book club be run by only two people? Schwalbe and his mother wondered as they waited together over many chemotherapy sessions at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. It didn t matter: Books showed us that we didn t need to retreat or cocoon, he writes; they provided much-needed ballast during an emotionally tumultuous time when fear and uncertainty gripped them both as the dreaded disease ( not curable but treatable ) progressed rapidly. From Ian McEwan s On Chesil Beach to Khaled Hosseini s A Thousand Splendid Suns, William Trevor s Felicia s Journey to Josephine Tey s Brat Farrar, Geraldine Brooks s People of the Book to John Updike s My Father s Tears: the books they shared allowed them to speak honestly and thoughtfully, to get to know each other, ask big questions, and especially talk about death. With a refreshing forthrightness, and an excellent list of books included, this is an astonishing, pertinent, and wonderfully welcome work.

Customer Reviews

More than a book club

I don't know what compelled me to read this book, except I love books and the idea of a book about a book club, albeit a two-member one, and one of those members is dying, rather intrigued me. Whatever my initial impulse, I couldn't be more grateful to Mr. Schwalbe and his willingness to share this remarkable story. And lest you have any misgivings, this story is not about the book club Will and his mother created, but rather the most loving and befitting tribute from a devoted son to his mother's legacy.

I will be gifting copies of this book to many because its message is too powerful to leave on the shelf.

A must read!

Fabulous book. My favorite of 2012!!!

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

This book presents a compelling argument as to why to become and remain a well read person. Good books expands one's perspectives, one's world. Thus increasing one's world view. For too long now, my world view was narrowing with each tweet, each facebook post, each snatchet of impartial insignificance.

The view now changes.

Start here and go on through the rest of the world, through the rest of your life.

The End of Your Life Book Club
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Oct 02, 2012
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 352 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings