"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.
©2012 Will Schwalbe (P)2012 Random House Audio
"With a refreshing forthrightness, and an excellent list of books included, this is an astonishing, pertinent, and wonderfully welcome work." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
"A wonderful book about wonderful books and mothers and sons and the enduring braid between them. Like the printed volumes it celebrates, this story will stay with you long after the last page." (Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays with Morrie and The Time Keeper)
"Will Schwalbe's lyrical tribute to a life well-lived and a death graced with love and literature is a precious gift bestowed on all of us. What a unique and beautiful book this is, and how privileged we are to have it." (Sherwin B. Nuland, author of The Art of Aging and How We Die)
This book was an absolute pleasure to read. Will Schwalbe writes in a very accessible manner that is refreshing. He’s a book publisher from a well-educated and influential family. His world is changed however when it is learned that his mother, the cog in the family is diagnosed with cancer and is given roughly six months to live. They are a family of readers, so it isn’t a shock that he asks her “what are you reading?” This begins a strange book club, with only two members, a son and his mother. The books they read are fantastic to be sure, but it’s how the books help them cope that inspires me. It gives them an avenue to approach difficult conversations.
My mother has Muscular Dystrophy and it is very hard to watch her muscles deteriorate and pain increase. I don’t know how many more years she has left. A difference between Schwalbe and I is that I’ve had 17 years to prepare mentally. But you really can’t prepare for it. This book helps. It shows that just being there as a family is most important, to make them feel special. I love my mom so much and hope she lives many more years, but this book helped me realize I’m less alone and showed me things to say…
A sad book to be sure, but less sad than I’ve probably made it out to be. It’s really a story of love. A love of family and a love of books. Is there a better combination?
I listened to it several times. Sometimes to just the parts I found particularly moving.
He is an excellent reader.
This book made me laugh and cry. It made me remember all the books that meant so much to me growing up.
I enjoyed the speaker and the story, but it could be a little sad/depressing at times. This may or may not be a good book for someone who is going through a similar experience with cancer or has a loved one with cancer.
Addicted to Audible!
Being a book lover who shares that love with her mother and children I was excited to listen to this book. I was very disappointed. It was a beautiful testimony to Will's mother ,who seemed to be a remarkable woman and was truly loved by her family. That said, the book wasn't interesting, it was "background noise" during my daily chores and workout. Only once or twice did anything resound with me. I think that perhaps in the hands of a great writer this story might have been outstanding but it neither gave me insight into the books they read or much about their relationship. There was very intertwining of the trauma they were experiencing with the books and how it affected them or what great insights came from the conversations they had. I feel like my monthly book club ladies dissect each book and discuss more personal insights relating to the subject matter each month.
Don't let the title dissuade you from reading this book! The author will take you on a wonderful journey through some of the best works of literature available to Audible listeners as Wil Schwalbe and his mother share their love of reading with each other. After finishing this selection, I listened to two more outstanding books that the author and his mother had discussed: Pillars of the Earth and Crossing to Safety.
The mother was performed so well by this male! It made me smile thinking how well the author wrote the many "Mom" phrases in this book and how well he and the narrator had me so clearly imagining her in my mind. She held so many positions in her life and was a tireless humanitarian...yet she always had time to read a great book!...and although most of her jobs would have impressed any dinner guest, she remained humble and always said her most important job was being a mother.
I live in Scottsdale, Arizona. I have 5 grown children, play ukuele exercise, and read.
Since I am not close to my mother, I really envy those who are! This book is a tribute to the love of a son to his mother. It's absolutely beautifully written, and I kept hoping the ending would be different.
Because the book really covers so many life events it's difficult to pinpoint a favorite. I just loved getting to know the mother through the eyes of her loving son.
This was my first.
The mother's ability to so articulately describe her feelings toward death. I hope I am that graceful if ever faced with such a life event.
This is a fantastic book. Don't let the "death" topic discourage you. It's really a book about a fantastic life.
i liked the book suggestions but really it was just like listening to a whole lot of book reviews.
i would have liked to hear more about his mothers life it sounded like she was a very inspirational lady
more about his mothers life
Here is a heart warming story of a wonderful relationship of a mother and her son. The relationship is strengthened during the time of the mom's treatments. Not only do we get an inside look at a very personal time but we are led into a world of literature that we can share with others. The message is clear: Share books with loved ones NOW and reap the benefits for a long time to come.
Will Schwalbe tells a story of human experience, life, love, family, and terminal illness that is compelling and heartwarming an not a lick depressing. Books give us so much understanding of the human condition, and I enjoyed hearing his and his mother's perspectives on stories I have read and those now on my to-read list!
At the top of my list.
The narrator has a fine soothing voice making this audible book a pleasant listening experience.
Yes, when Will at the end read a passage about God aloud and Mary Ann smiled. It occurred to me that was her moment when she was at total peace and ready to let go.
Yes, I enjoyed learning about Mary Ann's refugee work throughout the world. I also enjoyed learning about the books Will and Mary Ann shared and discussed.
Today I finished the book and paid tribute to Mary Ann by asking by siblings if they would like me to make a charitable donation in their honor rather than buying them a gift for Christmas.
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