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What Do You Want To Do Before You Die?: The Buried Life

Nemtin, Ben, et al.  What Do You Want To Do Before You Die?: The Buried Life. New York: Artisan, 2012. Print.

Nobody wants to think about dying. In fact, we often forget that our time is limited. The Buried Life, named after a Matthew Arnold poem, started in a garage in Victoria, BC when four disillusioned twenty-something university students got together to compile a list of 100 things they wanted to accomplish before they died. With a secondhand video camera and a used RV, these students set off for two weeks to tackle their bucket list.  Six years later, they are still travelling the world, crossing items off that list.  For every dream they accomplish, they help someone else fulfill a goal. “Write a bestselling book” was one dream on their list which they can now cross off.

What Do You Want to Do Before You Die? is an illustrated compilation of stories about the background of the four members of The Buried Life, tales of how they crossed items off their list along with photographic evidence, and favourite quotations, as well as a list of items and narratives chosen from the tens of thousands of answers they have received in response to their question.  Dreams vary from the simple, “I want to have my first kiss”, to the daring, “I want to climb the seven summits before I turn seventeen”, to the heartbreaking, “I want to finally say good-bye to my four friends who were killed in a car accident”.  Somewhere in this book, every reader will find a dream that resonates.

This is a book that will jump out at a YA audience, especially reluctant readers. Not only does the title and cover create immediacy, but the stories contained within it are edgy and thought-provoking. At eight pages, the introduction is the longest stretch of text, while the rest of the accounts are absorbing one page reflections that are scattered between bold and colourfully illustrated pages. This book will inspire readers to step outside of the ordinary.

Highly recommended:  4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer:  Jennifer Lunny

Jennifer Lunny is a new teacher-librarian at Ballenas Secondary School on Vancouver Island.  A former English and Social Studies teacher, she is excited to promote literacy in her new position. Finding that special book to connect with a student is one of the highlights of her job. She has spent the fall semester building the collection at her school with many of the titles that were proposed in this project.