01.30.2014

BOOK REVIEW: “THE PRIORITY LIST” (Touchstone Books) by David Menasche

by Associate Editor Michael P. Coleman

If you’ve ever asked yourself “What if…?”, here are a few words of wisdom for you:

“You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could’ve, would’ve happened…or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the fuck on.”

That’s a quote from the late rapper Tupac Shakur, it’s featured in the amazing, uplifting new memoir “The Priority List”, and it perfectly summarizes author David Menasche’s philosophy and world view.

Menasche would know.  He was happily married, thinking about starting a family, and a very successful public school high school teacher in Miami when, in his 30s, he received a stunning brain cancer diagnosis. His doctors told him that, if left untreated, his condition granted him a life expectancy of about two months.  That type of news would bring most people to their knees, and Menasche himself falters, but never falls.

What follows is the first-time author’s stunning account of his “moving the fuck on” by first engaging in a practice he had assigned to his students over the years: drafting a list of life priorities that he asked them to use as a guide for planning their lives and careers.  After Menasche completed the exercise himself, he decides to follow his own life road map, and sets out on a riveting cross-country trip.

Along the way, he checks in with many of his former students and gets to hear first-hand how he had had an impact on their lives.  Menasche details a couple of harrowing encounters, several heartwarming ones, and one in particular with actress Sarah Jessica Parker that you have to read.  Your impression of her will change after you do.

Among the most moving sections of the book are the first-hand accounts from many of his former students.  The reader gets to hear their recollections of events that Menasche had already described, and you see how seemingly small acts and short conversations had been pivotal in their development.

Menasche’s writing style is warm and conversational, sounding throughout as if he’s an old friend that’s just telling you about the day he’s had over a couple of beers.  After reading his book,  I also think of Menasche now as a teacher of mine.  “The Priority List” has taught this not-so-old dog more than a few tricks about life, the pursuit of happiness, finding value in life’s challenges, and finding true joy in the things that are often taken for granted.  Thank you, David Menasche.

“The Priority List” is available at retail everywhere, and via download at iBooks.

Email Michael P. Coleman at mikelsmindseye@me.com, or follow him on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP