The End of Your Life Book Club

The End of Your Life Book Club

Book - 2012
Average Rating:
Rate this:
When Mary Anne Schwalbe was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, her publisher son Will accompanied her to her treatments. As they had all their lives, they discussed books and the end of your life book club was born. They read and re-read dozens of books, not just 'great' books but a huge range. Funny and poignant, The End of Your Life Book Club is moving and inspirational. The book spans 75 years, it references locations all over the world and deals with the biggest questions life has to offer and the biggest challenges human beings confront. Through the books we come to know Mary Anne and their lifelong love affair with books. Mary Anne Schwalbe was the first director of the Women's Commission for refugee Women and Children, which is affiliated with the International Rescue Committee and was instrumental in founding the IRC's UK Board. Prior to working with refugees she served as director of admissions for Harvard and Radcliffe. As part of her work with refugees she travelled to 27 countries, often during wartime. She spoke at conferences all over the world and received several major humanitarian honours. She attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in 1955 and worked in the theatre for ten years. She and her husband spent much of their time in the UK from 1976 until 2007. Her last endeavour was helping to build libraries in Afghanistan. Mary Anne Schwalbe died in September 2009.
Publisher: London : Two Roads, 2012.
Branch Call Number: 616.994 SCH
Characteristics: x, 336 p. ;,23 cm.


From Library Staff

List - Best Reads 2013
robertafsmith Feb 11, 2013

This Biography plots the relationship between Will Schwalbe and his mother when she is slowly dying of an incurable disease. They connect through the books they are reading. There are so many book compilations similar to this, but this book has a particularly good set of reads and a very heart wa... Read More »

VanessaCCL Nov 27, 2012

"Editor and writer Will Schwalbe and his mother, Mary Anne, started a book club just for them as they sat in the waiting room at the centre where Mary Anne was receiving chemotherapy. Their conversations began with her remarks about a particular book and continued through more than two years... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

This is basically an annotated bibliography couched in an end of life narrative which is touching on a personal level but pedantic and a bit dreary for the dissociated reader. There are many everyday heroes like his mother but like this book, their lives do not make interesting reading.

Aug 26, 2019

Tea & Talk Book Club / May 2016

Aug 14, 2019

This book is a love letter to the author's mother and the books they read in the hospital waiting rooms. I got more than I needed about how wonderful his Mother was, but nothing about what she DID in all the other countries she visited. Not enough about the books they read together. But I did enjoy it.

Jul 14, 2019

A memoir of the time spent and the books read together by a son and his mother over the 18 months from her diagnosis to her death from pancreatic cancer. I found it uninteresting and tiresome; obviously, I have no heart.

IndyPL_MicheleP Dec 04, 2018

I enjoyed reading the book. The many book titles referenced were intriguing and I loved his mother's attitude toward life.

Nov 27, 2018

Like the previous reviewer I too found this book focused far too much on the author's mother who was so perfect to be rather insufferable. I wanted to be moved by, inspired by and be sentimental about books, but I wasn't. Interestingly, I felt that one of the author's other books "Books for Living" accomplishes this. In that publication the books ARE the main characters. Reading Books for Living I really felt like I was encountering a number of old beloved friends and meeting some potential new ones. Reading "The End of your Life Book Club" did not inspire me in my reading. However kudos to a family for being so close knit and being each other's cheering squad.

VaughanPLDavidB Nov 20, 2018

I looked forward to this book as a son who lost his mother to cancer. Beyond that I knew nothing about the main characters, and I otherwise did not identify with the relationship described in this book. I also looked forward to it because I run a book club at my library, and this is the chosen book for the month. There was everything to like about this book, but there was something nagging at me the whole time I was reading it that might not seem like a rational complaint: I so wished that the author's mother was just an ordinary person who loved reading. But Mary Ann Schwalbe was anything but ordinary, and it irked me. This woman had it all and did it all, and had praise heaped on her for her entire life, and now this book. It just seems like piling on. A straightforward biography would have been better. I wanted the books to be the stars of this memoir, but they weren't. As I said, not necessarily a rational complaint. This isn't a novel where you can justifiably complain about the characters. This is real life.

Apr 19, 2017

I couldn't even get half way through this book. It was embarrassing to read. It is poorly written and badly edited. It's a glaringly obvious vanity piece written by a privileged kid who has a job in the publishing industry because his "family" had "connections".

A young man has been desperate for his socialite mother's attention all his life. She is an ivy league educated narcissistic control freak who traveled the world gaining fame & fortune and notoriety through her charitable work.

Finally, she's her child's captive because she's dying so he's milking her for all the attention he can get before it's too late. This guy needs a therapist and his negligent self indulgent mother will have some karma to deal work off next time around.

Mar 17, 2017

The book's very title gives away the ending. It's ironic that the author's mother always reads the end first. But she doesn't convert her son to her method of book reading, or even try. Much as he loves her and applauds what she's accomplished with her life, he recognizes that she's a controlling person and not a saint. For him, that's part of what he admires about her--she's the hub of the family. The family takes turns sitting with her through appointments and treatments, and the book club evolves for the two of them. What are two readers going to do while sitting in doctors' waiting rooms and though hours of chemo? They start talking about the characters, which leads them in multiple directions, sometimes not very relevant to the book. They choose books because they apply to her situation, or their family, or the refugee work she's done, or because one of them has loved it before. The book list at the end is an added bonus.

Oct 16, 2016

A beautiful tribute of a child to a parent, with a different twist to "living through the dying"process. Picked up several titles of books I now want to read. Would make a very good book club selection.

View All Comments


Add a Quote
Mar 12, 2013

Page 128 -
" I realized then that for all of us, part of the process of Mom's dying was mourning not just her death but also the death of our dreams of things to come. You don't really lose the person who has been; you have all those memories. ..... I was learning that when you're with someone who is dying, you may need to celebrate the past, live the present, and mourn the future all at the same time."

Jan 04, 2013

“One of the many things I love about bound books is their sheer physicality. Electronic books live out of sight and out of mind. But printed books have body, presence. ... I often seek electronic books, but they never come after me. They may make me feel, but I can't feel them. They are all soul with no flesh, no texture, and no weight.”

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at My Library

To Top