Biography and Memoir Reviews: “The End of Your Life Book Club” and Neil Young

Unsure what new book to read next? Sit back: We read the book reviews in case you missed them. Below are the collected reviews of two new books being discussed in leading journals and magazines. Today we look at "The End of Your Life Book Club" by Will Schwalbe and "Waging Heavy Peace" by Neil Young.  

"The End of Your Life Book Club" by Will Schwalbe

Will Schwalbe received a shock when his vibrant, well traveled mother was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer at age 73 in 2007. Resigning from his post as editor-in-chief of Hyperion Books, Schwalbe spent the next two years accompanying his mother, Mary Anne Schwalbe, to doctor visits and chemotherapy sessions where the passionate readers formed a two-person book club. “Books provided an avenue for the author and his mother to explore important topics that made them uneasy,” Kirkus Reviews notes before calling the memoir “a heartfelt tribute.” In her review for The Columbus Dispatch, Margaret Quamme says, “His story is a warm reminder why we read and what our reading says about us and the ways we connect with others.” In a starred review, Publishers Weekly is similarly moved, raving, “With a refreshing forthrightness, and an excellent list of books included, this is an astonishing, pertinent, and wonderfully welcome work.”

"Waging Heavy Peace" by Neil Young

The first thing to note about Neil Young’s memoir is that he wrote it himself, a necessary point of fact in this age of the celebrity ghostwriter. At 66, Young is still a much worshipped and imitated folk singer with a back catalogue that is referenced and riffed with astonishing regularity by modern musicians. Singer-songwriter John Welsey Harding, writing as Wesley Stace in The Wall Street Journal, calls "Waging Heavy Peace" "…terrific: modest, honest, funny, and frequently moving." In a favorable review in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dan DeLuca calls it “its own kind of book,” later underscoring his point with, “It's a shaggy-dog tale told with childlike wonder by a protean creator learning a new craft as he goes. At times, Young uses more exclamation points than a texting teenager, and he'll inform you that his word count is up to 90,000, or that he has only had to rewrite one paragraph so far.” Simon Vozick-Levinson, writing for, is also taken by Young’s shambolic writing approach, noting that the memoir “often reads less like a traditional autobiography than a lively blog -- full of casual asides, unpredictable tangents and open-ended questions…” and forgives some “free-associative riffing” before ultimately praising the book for showing “…that Young is still in full possession of that stubborn, brilliant, one-of-a-kind instrument,” his mind.