BOOKS WRITTEN BY RYDER ZIEBARTH
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSHUA SIMPSON
New York Times bestselling author and Nantucket Book Festival luminary William Schwalbe shares the story of how books brought comfort to his terminally ill mother.
“When you read a good book it changes you and
“Mom was such a practical woman, with an
becomes a part of your life,” says author William
incredible work ethic,” Schwalbe says during lunch
Schwalbe, “and it doesn’t just end when you close
at a café near his home in the West Village. “She
the cover. It lives on in your own life in so many
would always frame things in terms of ‘what can
different ways.” This rings especially true when con-
I do’ instead of ‘what can’t I do,’ even when she
sidering William Schwalbe’s most recent bestseller,
was very ill.” Mary Anne worked as an admissions
The End of Your Life Book Club, a poignant mem-
director at Harvard and Radcliffe, and helped found
oir about reaching out to his terminally ill mother
the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and
through books. Sharing and reading books became
Children and the UK branch of the International
a natural way for Schwalbe and his mother, Mary
Rescue Committee. During the last two years of
Anne, to process her grim prognosis of pancreatic
her life, she campaigned and fundraised to build a
cancer in 2007. At first, books were just something
research library and cultural center in Afghanistan.
to talk about during Mary Anne’s chemotherapy
When Mary Anne passed away, Schwalbe wanted
sessions. Then they went further, purposely choosing
his mother’s generous spirit to live on, and the best
books they always wanted to read or ones they had
way he knew how to do that was to put it between
longed to re-read someday. The Schwalbe book club
book covers. The resulting memoir is not only a
tightened their mother-son bond, and bolstered their
tribute to a life well lived, but an authentic missive
spirits through the long days leading to the end of
of love and courage for all families.
Mary Anne’s life.
N Magazine's June Issue celebrates the second annual Nantucket Book Festival.