Which books should I read before I die?

US | Mar 28

Before you die (and ideally, the earlier in life you are), you should read the following 3:

How to Die – funny how the title is so befittingAnd no, this was not meant to be a pun.

This looks like something you should NEVER read or at least a text that might depress you, but it isn’t. Frankly, it’s a book about “how to live.”

This past winter, I was ending what felt like a full year of depression. I’ve gone in and out of it for years — not as badly as my father who’s fell into the nadir of the disease that’s plagued him all throughout life. However, last year felt like both the worst and the best of it; I felt more “in control” of it than ever for some reason. Maybe I’ve had it too much and had the mental capacity to “figure it out,” but I think it’s also because of what I’m about to share.

I started to notice some odd symptoms like random cramping of my calf muscles or a worsening of some other ailments and even worse than average pains in my back. I was starting to get concerned. I first started by seeing my optometrist (who’s wonderful if you’re in the U District or nearby in the Seattle area) b/c I knew from the previous year, I would lose these benefits by year’s end. She found a small sign of possibly an issue not as bad as a stroke, but a blood vessel that looked odd. She said I should get it checked out.

I then decided to see a dentist for the first time in 3 years and despite feeling a tad odd about her constantly ignoring this huge chunk of tooth that’s chipped off, I tried to listen to her and stuck it out. After two appointments and a reasonable cleaning, I decided to go with my gut and see another dentist (who turned out to be the

reasonable cost. Health outweighed any financial instability I might have.

And finally, I saw the most amazing doctor I have ever met in my life. Yes, it’s only been one (3 hour long initial) visit, but she took care of a check I’ve been needing since 8 years ago. We’ll talk about that here maybe later in this answer.

Well, during all this time, I started thinking about my “last hours” for some reason. For the first time, I felt like I would truly be in “pain mentally” if I didn’t do what I needed to do. I would sit in that death bed looking back in life and it would be too late. I would be physically immobile and honestly, it would literally paralyze me into the next world — if there even is one. I would end life in one of the worst ways.

I decided at that moment, I wouldn’t feel this way. I would live every single moment as if it were my last. Rather, as Seneca wrote:

I make it so that my day is a small version of my whole life. I don’t, by Hercules, grab at it as though it were my last one, but I look upon it as though it could be my last.

~Seneca, How to Die

Almost a month later, I finally decided to start my lifelong dream. A few days after that, I finally was able to get back into shape and started a circuit training program organized by some guys here in the Puget Sound every morning at 5:30a in various places. I guess they do this throughout the country. While I ended up spraining my ankle 2 weeks after starting, I was able to continue staying in shape because of this new mentality. Nothing would stop me.

Yesterday, I hired my first employee — or finalized the terms and also the first intern. Weeks before that, I was able to recruit my current CTO and a group of advisors who happened to just be great friends all my life (with some of the best pedigrees). I was able to catch up with some friends I haven’t talked to in decades. And I just completed my first month of the business and it’s been possibly the best start to any company in history — IMHO.

Why? You’ll want to read this book.

A couple others with similar themes, but more modern are:

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, the Stanford Neurosurgeon who wrote about his life and illness battling stage IV metastatic lung cancer.

Hopefully, you won’t need some “awakening” like I had a couple months ago to kickstart your life, but if you do, I would highly recommend reading at least one, if not all these books.

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