We learn pretty much at the beginning of this utterly engrossing book that Will Schwalbe's mother had Stage IV pancreatic cancer. Yes, thats the terminal kind that has metastasized to many other organs of a person's body. While this may have been devastating to most people (and was to Will, his siblings and the rest of his family), his indomitable mother continues to live a *really* active life. She juggles her treatments with her other obligations and her pleasures, most notably her voracious appetite for reading. During her treatments, Will (also a tremendous reader in a family of readers) will read the same books that his mother does and discuss them with her in great depth.
I'm normally very hesitant about books about books - they can go so horribly wrong so quickly; however this one was really good in part because it's not a Cliffs note version of books, and because it's also a memoir of his mother's struggle with cancer and because he's such a good writer. I think that one of the best compliments that I can give for this book is that I wish that I had known Will's mother and that this was the most wonderful tribute anyone could have made to their mother because it conveyed how wonderful she was while also imparting her gift of her love of books to the rest of us. While this book isn't upbeat (it's about cancer and death), it's not maudlin at all and parts of it are truly uplifting. I got ideas for books to read and topics to meditate on at a time in my life when I really and truly needed them to distract me or educate me or both. It re-affirmed my love of books, and reading and the act of reading and digesting what I've read. It re-affirmed the importance of family at a time that I was struggling to figure family out. This is a must read.