The Priority List

A Teacher's Final Quest to Discover Life's Greatest Lessons

The Priority List

In this poignant and inspiring memoir, a beloved high school English teacher with terminal brain cancer undertakes a cross-country journey to reunite with his former students in order to find out if he made a difference in their lives, discovering along the way what is truly important in life.

Based on a beloved teacher’s most popular lesson, The Priority List is a bold, inspirational story of learning, love, and legacy that challenges us to ask: What truly matters in life?

David Menasche lived for his work as a high school English teacher. His passion inspired his students, and between lessons on Shakespeare and sentence structure, he forged a unique bond with his kids, buoying them through personal struggles while sharing valuable life lessons.

When a six-year battle with brain cancer ultimately stole David’s vision, memory, mobility, and—most tragically of all—his ability to continue teaching, he was devastated by the thought that he would no longer have the chance to impact his students’ lives each day.

But teaching is something Menasche just couldn’t quit. Undaunted by the difficult road ahead of him, he decided to end his treatments and make life his classroom. Cancer had robbed him of his past and would most certainly take his future; he wouldn’t allow it to steal his present. He turned to Facebook with an audacious plan: a journey across America— by bus, by train, by red-tipped cane—in hopes of seeing firsthand how his kids were faring in life. Had he made a difference? Within forty-eight hours of posting, former students in more than fifty cities replied with offers of support and shelter.

Traveling more than eight thousand miles from Miami to New York, to America’s heartland and San Francisco’s Golden Gate, and visiting hundreds of his students, David’s fearless journey explores the things we all want and need out of life—family, security, independence, love, adventure—and forces us to stop to consider our own Priority List.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476743462 | 
  • January 2014
List Price $11.99 (price may vary by retailer)


Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Priority List includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author David Menasche. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


At thirty-four years old, teacher David Menasche is diagnosed with a brain tumor. It shatters his life and begins to erode his marriage, but through it all, his job and his students are his focus. Six years and three surgeries later, he suffers a catastrophic seizure that steals his vision, his memories, his mobility, and his ability to teach. Unable to do the very thing that gave his life meaning, he decides to make life his classroom and sets off on a journey across the country to visit his former students to see if he’s made a difference in their lives. The lessons he learns on the road help him to understand what truly matters in life.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. “If only I could have frozen time” (p. 5), the author says of the moment before his diagnosis. Think about your own life. Is there a moment where you would freeze time? Is it before a good event or a bad one? Why did you choose this moment?
2. “It hadn see more

About the Author

David Menasche
Photograph by Chris Granger

David Menasche

David Menasche grew up a skate punk with a love for literature and a lack of direction. He’s careful never to say that he fell into teaching but that he “rose up to it.” He taught English at Miami’s magnet school, Coral Reef Senior High School, for fifteen years. In 2012, he was awarded Teacher of the Year by his region. He lives in New Orleans.