Book 130 of 2017} "My father reminds me that according to Midrash - the ever-evolving commentary upon the Hebrew scriptures - when you arrive in the world as a baby, your hands are clenched, as though to say, "Everything is mine. I will inherit it all." When you depart from the world, your hands are open, as though to say, "I have acquired nothing from the world.” This, as the title suggests, is a book about what it means to be alive and how we confront our decline and inevitable death. Astounded by the vitality of his 97 year old father, David Shields sat down to write about what it means to live and die. Drawing on personal anecdotes, quotes from renowned authors and thinkers and anatomical facts, this part memoir/part mediation on life considers birth, youth, middle-age, old-age and, of course, expiration. Shields writes about the realities of the human body, suicide and sex, as well as his relationship with his father, his wife, his young daughter and his own body. Courageous in what it confronts head-on, Shields asks the hard questions and contemplates the stuff we do our utmost to ignore. This is a deeply moving and at times unsettling read; in essence, it is, I think, a love-better, full of wonder, to life and all it entails. Excellent.