In this poignant and inspiring memoir, a beloved high school English teacher with terminal brain cancer undertakes a cross-country journey to reunite with his former students in order to find out if he made a difference in their lives, discovering along the way what is truly important in life.
Based on a beloved teacher’s most popular lesson, The Priority List is a bold, inspirational story of learning, love, and legacy that challenges us to ask: What truly matters in life?
David Menasche lived for his work as a high school English teacher. His passion inspired his students, and between lessons on Shakespeare and sentence structure, he forged a unique bond with his kids, buoying them through personal struggles while sharing valuable life lessons.
When a six-year battle with brain cancer ultimately stole David’s vision, memory, mobility, and—most tragically of all—his ability to continue teaching, he was devastated by the thought that he would no longer have the chance to impact his students’ lives each day.
But teaching is something Menasche just couldn’t quit. Undaunted by the difficult road ahead of him, he decided to end his treatments and make life his classroom. Cancer had robbed him of his past and would most certainly take his future; he wouldn’t allow it to steal his present. He turned to Facebook with an audacious plan: a journey across America— by bus, by train, by red-tipped cane—in hopes of seeing firsthand how his kids were faring in life. Had he made a difference? Within forty-eight hours of posting, former students in more than fifty cities replied with offers of support and shelter.
Traveling more than eight thousand miles from Miami to New York, to America’s heartland and San Francisco’s Golden Gate, and visiting hundreds of his students, David’s fearless journey explores the things we all want and need out of life—family, security, independence, love, adventure—and forces us to stop to consider our own Priority List.
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David Menasche grew up a skate punk with a love for literature and a lack of direction. He’s careful never to say that he fell into teaching but that he “rose up to it.” He taught English at Miami’s magnet school, Coral Reef Senior High School, for fifteen years. In 2012, he was awarded Teacher of the Year by his region. He lives in New Orleans.Review:
"In an abstract way, we all know that life is short and precious. Or, at least, we THINK we know. But for David Menasche — a passionate young teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer at age 34 — that notion was anything but abstract. Filled with a wide-eyed reverence for life, he set off on an audacious journey around the country, determined to visit all his old students and speak to them (and listen to them) about the true priorities of existence. The result is a beautiful, heartfelt, and ultimately important story about love, kinship, gratitude, and miracles." (Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things)
"When cancer told David Menasche his teaching days were over, he told cancer: With all due respect, you don't know me very well. Writing with courage and strength, his determination to share life's lessons beyond his classroom is both inspirational and enlightening." (Ron Clark, American educator and New York Times bestselling author of The Essential 55 and The End of Molasses Classes)
"A lot of people could write about what they would do if they were told they only had a short time to live, but few could write as thoughtfully, and with as much honesty, as David has with The Priority List. This former skate punk turned English teacher's life lessons will inspire anyone who reads them." (Jim Lindberg of Pennywise)
“Within David’s journey, there are powerful lessons about how we connect to one another, and how even the smallest gestures can leave a lasting legacy. THE PRIORITY LIST is a brave and important book, which at its deepest level reminds us what it means to be human." (Jerry DeWitt, author of Hope After Faith)
"A beautiful meditation." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Like Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, this memoir is a rousing testimony to the ways in which, in the face of death, living fully in the present moment becomes possible." (Publisher's Weekly)
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