The End of Your Life Book Club

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

Some of my favourite excerpts….

Books to read from this book:

One of the most frequently named books was and is always Crossing to Safety.
On Chesil Beach
The Lizard Cage
Continental Drift
The Painted Veil
Wherever You Go, There You Are
Eleanor Rathbone and the Politics of Conscience by Susan Pedersen,
Suite Française


The latter therapy has its roots in a philosophy called Naikan, developed by Ishin Yoshimoto. Naikan reminds people to be grateful for everything. If you are sitting in a chair, you need to realize that someone made that chair, and someone sold it, and someone delivered it—and you are the beneficiary of all that. Just because they didn’t do it especially for you doesn’t mean you aren’t blessed to be using it and enjoying it. The idea is that if you practice the Naikan part of Constructive Living, life becomes a series of small miracles, and you may start to notice everything that goes right in a typical life and not the few things that go wrong.


The best thing anyone can teach their children is the obligation we all have toward each other—and no one has a monopoly on teaching that.”


And then something occurred to me. “You know: the thing about our book club is that we’ve really been in it all our lives.” Mom agreed but pointed out that she’d been doing the same with others too—talking about books with my sister and brother and some of her friends. “I guess we’re all in it together,” she said. And I couldn’t help but smile at the other meaning of the phrase. We’re all in the end-of-our-life book club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.


It then described some of Mom’s passions and jobs and accomplishments. It ended: “This dynamo of energy was contained in a small, quiet, smiling, elegantly dressed woman, who could appear as conventional as a lady who lunched, but travelled the world often in desperately trying circumstances: she was an electoral observer in the Balkans, and was shot at in Afghanistan. Mary Anne saw the worst and believed the best.” I think Marina got it exactly right. Mom taught me not to look away from the worst but to believe that we can all do better. She never wavered in her conviction that books are the most powerful tool in the human arsenal, that reading all kinds of books, in whatever format you choose—electronic (even though that wasn’t for her) or printed, or audio—is the grandest entertainment, and also is how you take part in the human conversation. Mom taught me that you can make a difference in the world and that books really do matter: they’re how we know what we need to do in life, and how we tell others. Mom also showed me, over the course of two years and dozens of books and hundreds of hours in hospitals, that books can be how we get closer to each other, and stay close, even in the case of a mother and son who were very close to each other to begin with, and even after one of them has died.

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