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Every Third Thought


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Every Third Thought is about how we approach and accept death.

About the Author

Robert McCrum was born and educated in Cambridge. For nearly 20 years he was editor-in-chief of the publishers Faber & Faber, and then literary editor of the Observer from 1996 to 2008. He is now an associate editor of the Observer. He is the author of My Year Off, Wodehouse: A Life (2004), six novels, and the co-author of the international bestseller, The Story of English (1986).


Thoughtful, subtle, elegantly clever and oddly joyous, Every Third Thought is beautiful and - most of all - true -- Kate Mosse, author of Labyrinth
Every Third Thought is an important book, and one that brings death into the light, uncovering both the losses we have to endure, as well as the gifts we can receive if we are open to it. Profoundly moving and fascinating. It is a gem. -- Julia Samuel, author of Grief Works
As an assemblage of great quotes and prompts for further reading, Every Third Thought rivals DJ Enright's anthology The Oxford Book of Death. McCrum adds striking metaphors of his own. -- Blake Morrison * Guardian *
A wry and reflective treatise on mortality . . . fascinating and paradoxically enjoyable -- Roger Lewis * The Times *
We have to think about death, and talk about it, perhaps rather more than we do. And if that's so, there can be no better guide than a wise, humane and battered-about writer like McCrum. He has thought deeply, talked widely, read voraciously and experienced much . . . by the time I had finished this book, I had a silly grin on my face. That was partly because it ends with a happy surprise, but more importantly because you cannot confront the meaning of death without a refreshed and more vivid understanding of the glory of being alive . . . As I closed it, having stared pretty steadily at extinction, I found myself encouraged and fortified. So, really, thank you, Robert. -- Andrew Marr * Mail on Sunday *
I can't think of another writer who could display such learning and erudition with this lightness of touch. Robert McCrum seems to have read everything, but you never feel he's lecturing; rather, he is a delightful and amused companion. The subject of Every Third Thought is so serious, yet it's illuminated by such humanity and flashes of wit that the reader closes it feeling oddly comforted. Only a writer in total command of his subject could present all this so deftly. Every Third Thought is a constant source of wisdom and interest . . . a gem -- Cressida Connolly
Marvellous . . . Every Third Thought is a reminder of the shadows on the grass, even at this time of year; that we shouldn't be afraid of them, that in time they will come to enfold us all . . . McCrum's book shows us that we should grab all the living moments and live in them, while we are here. * Scotsman *
A wonderful book, so personal that it holds you in its grip -- Rabbi Julia Neuberger
A jewel of a book: our most profound thoughts, gracefully shaped . . . thoughtful, humane and full of warmth -- David Bodanis
Every Third Thought is simply stunning: a brilliant, wise, compassionate and consoling account of death and dying in a secular age. McCrum moves seamlessly from personal testimonies to medical case studies to recent developments in neuroscience. He asks profound philosophical questions about mortality, finitude and the unknown. A uniquely beautiful and significant book -- Joanna Kavenna, author of The Ice Museum
Reading McCrum's book, with its jaunty, gentle, meandering style, is like going on a country ramble with an exquisitely knowledgeable yet modest friend, discussing the meaning of life. Although it's a slender work on a well-worn subject, it would be hard to find a more agreeable or erudite companion for the journey along the road towards life's inevitable dead end. * Literary Review *
Both intensely personal and coolly objective . . . McCrum carries us with him on a tour d'horizon that is witty, companionable and compulsively readable. And in the final pages comes a twist to make the heart soar: evidence that however bleak, however short the time left, it is never too late to be surprised by joy -- Maggie Fergusson * Spectator *
Engaging and honest... A narrative full of vigour, even (sometimes) black humour... It is like wandering around with a wise peer, eavesdropping on his conversations and enjoying his literary quotations. With the distinguished British neurologist Andrew Lees, he discusses the death-in-life that is Alzheimer's disease and continues this theme with world-famous brain surgeon (and bestselling author of Do No Harm) Henry Marsh -- Bel Mooney * Daily Mail *
A beautifully contemplative account of what it means to be dying, as we all are, in the midst of life . . . a deep and engaged set of questions and ruminations . . . Strangely, by pressing so hard into his subject, he has written a book that is lifted and lightened with affirmation of life. There is not a single story that he tells, no matter how grave, that is not made joyous by the fine attention of his writing and its judicious and intelligent use of quotation and literary and scientific material . . . In McCrum's book, the quotations, poetry and information collated are part of the weave of its fabric. It's why his story has such lift and reach. It is never just about Robert McCrum thinking about death. It becomes a continuation of a great discussion that has been taking place since the beginning of recorded culture. -- Kirsty Gunn * New Statesman *
Robert McCrum's elegant series of essays captures that sense of inevitability and surprise that comes into any discussion of mortality . . . He is an impeccable stylist . . . The book is graciously about others as much as it is about himself . . . It is also a work of literary criticism, examining the ways in which our anxieties about ageing and dying have been represented in prose and poetry. McCrum is admirably eclectic in his tastes here . . . This eloquent book shows that it is not just philosophy that "teaches us to die well," but literature - and more than that, a common humanity. -- Stuart Kelly * Scotland on Sunday *
McCrum's investigative spirit takes hold and keeps pathos at bay . . . This is a brave book, which faces what most of us avoid thinking about, and it even manages a joke. -- John Carey * Sunday Times *
An unflinching exploration of [McCrum's] own mortality and that of other people. It draws on personal experience, the testimony of friends, the works of great writers, and interviews with experts in medicine and psychotherapy, melded together in an engaging conversational style . . . McCrum's bravery in staring into the abyss cannot be overestimated; reading his book inevitably brings moments of terror. But Every Third Thought has something positive to offer, too. The approach of death can reveal extraordinary reserves of courage and heighten people's appreciation of the world around them. * Economist *
And enthralling, wise and very necessary read * Radio Times *
Moving, intellectual and unsentimental. I think it will become a classic -- Melvyn Bragg, New Statesman, Books of the Year 2017

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