Cover image for The point is : making sense of birth, death, and everything in between / Lee Eisenberg.
The point is : making sense of birth, death, and everything in between / Lee Eisenberg.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Twelve, 2016.

Physical Description:
xvi, 279 pages ; 22 cm
PART I: The beginning -- Meet the scribbler -- Inside the memory factory -- Authorized and unabridged -- First jottings -- A God-shaped hole -- Is the beginning important? -- PART II: The middle -- Beware the elbow -- Interlude: other voices -- Breathing space -- Paper and dust -- Who needs happiness? -- The James Dean story -- How we live on -- Snowbirds at sunset -- PART III: The end -- Ghost theory -- In search of a good ending -- Butterfly in the cafe -- A place in the shade -- Is there ever a right time? -- Chiseled and engraved -- Precious find -- Diaries dearest -- Writing a beautiful sentence.
Explores modern life and how to find meaning and purpose in personal and professional lives, providing research findings from the fields of psychology and neuroscience and through-provoking words of great thinkers including Tolstoy and Virginia Woolf.
Subject Term:



Library Branch
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
1 Bob Harkins Branch 128 EIS Book Adult General Collection

On Order



In this engaging and provocative new book, Lee Eisenberg, bestselling author of The Number , dares to tackle nothing less than what it takes to find enduring meaning and purpose in life.

He explains how from a young age, each of us is compelled to take memories of events and relationships and shape them into a one-of-a-kind personal narrative. In addition to sharing his own pivotal memories (some of them moving, some just a shade embarrassing), Eisenberg presents striking research culled from psychology and neuroscience, and draws on insights from a pantheon of thinkers and great writers-Tolstoy, Freud, Joseph Campbell, Virginia Woolf, among others.

We also hear from men and women of all ages who are wrestling with the demands of work and family, ever in search of fulfillment and satisfaction.

It all adds up to a fascinating story, delightfully told, one that goes straight to the heart of how we explain ourselves to ourselves-in other words, who we are and why .

Author Notes

Lee Eisenberg is the bestselling author of The Number and other books. He's a former editor in chief of Esquire and has been a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, among other stops in a colorful, wide-ranging career. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Fortune , Businessweek , Time , Newsweek , and New York magazine . He divides his time between Chicago and New York City. For news and updates, please visit

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

"What is the point?" Former Esquire editor-in-chief Eisenberg (The Number) tackles the big question in this memoir about writing and life. The book takes time to develop momentum, but ultimately succeeds in looping in the reader. Eisenberg's approach is discursive, trolling through history and current culture for insight. Employing the process of writing a book as an extended metaphor for creating meaning, he says that memory is "the little storywriter nestled in the fissures of your brain" whose task it is to create "the so-called chapters of your life." Self-referential in the extreme, his story of writing this story returns repeatedly, throughout its three parts, to a touchstone-a graveyard the author visits-to ground a wide-ranging consideration of the role of memory, the tricky "elbow" of middle age, and death, among other things. In a paragraph about reporter Richard Ben Cramer, the author manages to make reference to Vice President Joe Biden, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Laurie Anderson. The underlying question, as it was for psychiatrist Viktor Frankl (another reference point), is how we create meaning and purpose in our lives. Eisenberg's suggestion is to write a compelling life story. An appendix provides three questionnaires used by psychologists and physicians to study attitudes toward life and death. Also included is an extensive list of references. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Former Esquire editor in chief Eisenberg (The Number) probes the power of life -stories: how memory and meaning transform identity and how we can share these experiences to find lasting connections that transcend individual personalities and lifetimes. He draws on the metaphor of the scribbler, a "writer-in-residence" who observes, edits, and records what happens in order to create significance, and from the insights of narrative psychology, to give the work a beginning, middle, and end, loosely corresponding to birth, death, and everything that takes place in between. -Eisenberg strives "to deprive death of its strangeness" as a way of coming to terms with the trajectory of the human condition. He weaves threads of his own narrative with philosophical and psychological musings and biographical strands from well-known thinkers, writers, friends, and strangers to show how every lifetime is a gift and thus a legacy that outlasts death. The appendix includes scored questionnaires that invite self-reflection and dialog queries intended for book club discussions. VERDICT With conversational irony and a dogged sense of humor reminiscent of Woody Allen, Eisenberg addresses the solemn notion of death without taking himself too seriously. This title will appeal to those interested in writing and reading memoirs.-Bernadette McGrath, Vancouver P.L. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. xi
Part I The Beginning
1 Meet the Scribblerp. 3
2 Inside the Memory Factoryp. 13
3 Authorized and Unabridgedp. 24
4 First Jottingsp. 30
5 A God-Shaped Holep. 45
6 Is the Beginning Important?p. 55
Part II The Middle
7 Beware the Elbowp. 61
8 Interlude: Other Voicesp. 85
9 Breathing Spacep. 96
10 Paper and Dustp. 114
11 Who Needs Happiness?p. 121
12 The James Dean Storyp. 131
13 How We Live Onp. 138
14 Snowbirds at Sunsetp. 154
Part III The End
15 Ghost Theoryp. 163
16 In Search of a Good Endingp. 168
17 Butterfly in the Cafep. 174
18 A Place in the Shadep. 180
19 Is There Ever a Right Time?p. 192
20 Chiseled and Engravedp. 202
21 Precious Findp. 210
22 Diaries Dearestp. 218
23 Writing a Beautiful Sentencep. 224
Afterwordp. 237
Appendixp. 247
Acknowledgmentsp. 261
Further Readingp. 265
Indexp. 269

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