Every Third Thought

Robert McCrum

12 July 2018
256 pages


As read on BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week

'Moving, intellectual and unsentimental. I think it will become a classic' Melvyn Bragg

'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. Since that life-changing event, McCrum has lived in the shadow of death, unavoidably aware of his own mortality. And now, in his sixties, he is noticing a change: his friends are joining him there. Death has become his contemporaries’ every third thought.

And so, with the words of McCrum’s favourite authors as travel companions, Every Third Thought takes us on a journey towards death itself. This is a deeply personal book of reflection and conversation – with brain surgeons, psychologists, hospice workers and patients, writers and poets, and it confronts an existential question: in a world where we have learnt to live well at all costs, can we make peace with dying?

Thoughtful, subtle, elegantly clever and oddly joyous, Every Third Thought is beautiful and - most of all - true
Every Third Thought is an important book, and one that brings death into the light, uncovering both the losses we have to endure, as well as the gifts we can receive if we are open to it. Profoundly moving and fascinating. It is a gem.
As an assemblage of great quotes and prompts for further reading, Every Third Thought rivals DJ Enright's anthology The Oxford Book of Death. McCrum adds striking metaphors of his own.