Released on 12 July 2018.

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Every Third Thought

On Life, Death, and the Endgame

3.52 based on 40 ratings & 13 reviews on


As read on BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week

'Thoughtful, subtle, elegantly clever and oddly joyous, Every Third Thought is beautiful' - Kate Mosse

In 1995, at the age of forty-two, Robert McCrum suffered a dramatic and near-fatal stroke, the subject of his acclaimed memoir My Year Off. Ever since that life-changing event, McCrum has lived in the shadow of death, unavoidably aware of his own mortality. And now, twenty-one years on, he is noticing a change: his friends are joining him there. Death has become his contemporaries’ every third thought. The question is no longer ‘who am I?’ but ‘how long have I got?’ and ‘what happens next?’

With the words of McCrum’s favourite authors as travel companions, Every Third Thought, takes us on a journey through a year and towards death itself. As he acknowledges his own and his friends’ ageing, McCrum confronts an existential question: in a world where we have learnt to live well at all costs, can we make peace with what Freud calls 'the necessity of dying'? Searching for answers leads him to others for advice and wisdom, and Every Third Thought is populated by the voices of brain surgeons, psychologists, cancer patients, hospice workers, writers and poets.

Witty, lucid and provocative, Every Third Thought is an enthralling exploration of what it means to approach the ‘end game’, and begin to recognize, perhaps reluctantly, that we are not immortal. Deeply personal and yet always universal, this is a book for anyone who finds themselves preoccupied by matters of life and death. It is both guide and companion.

In the media

Reading McCrum's book, with its jaunty, gentle, meandering style, is like going on a country ramble with an exquisitely knowledgeable yet modest friend, discussing the meaning of life. Although it's a slender work on a well-worn subject, it would be hard to find a more agreeable or erudite companion for the journey along the road towards life's inevitable dead end.
Literary Review
Marvellous . . . Every Third Thought is a reminder of the shadows on the grass, even at this time of year; that we shouldn’t be afraid of them, that in time they will come to enfold us all . . . McCrum's book shows us that we should grab all the living moments and live in them, while we are here.