Ways to Live Forever

ways to live forever

ExtractSam loves facts. He wants to know about UFOs and horror movies and airships and ghosts and scientists, and how it feels to kiss a girl.

And because he has leukaemia he wants to know the facts about dying. Sam needs answers to the questions nobody will answer.

My name is Sam. I am eleven years old. I collect stories and fantastic facts. By the time you read this, I will probably be dead.

True Facts About Ways to Live Forever


I really did run up down escalators when I was writing this book. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages and I thought, if Sam can do it, so can I. I did it in the same place Sam does – at the Cornmill Centre in Darlington.



The chapter Visits is based on something my mother did after I was diagnosed with diabetes as a child. It was supposed to be a funny scene – but it didn’t turn out that way when I wrote it.



I deleted over 20,000 words while writing this book (the finished novel is around 32,000 words long). Some of the scenes I deleted include a list of famous last words, a description of how a dead body decomposes and a scene where Sam and Felix try and break their world record by dropping water bombs on Sam’s dad.


There are a few real names and places in this book. Auntie Nicola, Auntie Sarah and Auntie Carolyn are named after friends of mine, as is Raoul, the airship pilot. Stanley Rhode (the airship captain) gets his name from Stanley Road, the street I lived on at university. My friends and I always meant to put Stanley Rhode into one of our essays but never did, so I put him in the book instead. High Strawberry – on Sam’s list of favourite things – is also a real place. We used to stay there when I was a child.


The first words I wrote when I began this book were:

pen Paper

List No. 1 – Five Important Facts About Me

1. My name is David Oliver Robinson.

2. I am eleven years, two months and seven days old.

3. I have one sister. Her name is Katherine Anne Robinson and she is nine years old.

4. I have acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

5. By the time you read this, I will already be dead.

Reviews of Ways to Live Forever

“impressed by Sally Nicholls’ sensitive handling of terminal illness in Ways to Live Forever”

Mal Peet, The Guardian

“Sympathetic, touching, and surprisingly funny…”


“Sally Nicholls has precisely captured the contents of an 11-year-old boy’s head in all its humorous, list-making splendour.” 

Junior Education Plus


  1. wonjoon
    September 25, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

    We read this book in class and it was sooooo good
    i like this book.


  2. Giovanna
    September 19, 2013 @ 5:06 am

    Hey, Sally
    Greetings from Ecuador.
    Just wanted to say that I really loved your book… I think I was obsessed with it for quite a while.
    I remember when my sister brought it home from the school library and she wouldn’t stop reading it. I was very surprised, considering she never reads willingly. I was also very curious, and I remember asking her about it but she wouldn’t let me even come near it. I also remember staying up until everyone was asleep and going into her room to steal it. When I finally read it, it was such an amazing book that I also couldn’t stop reading it and I enjoyed every bit of it. And I usually don’t read sad books, but this one was just amazing. That was about four years ago, and I still can’t get over your beautiful book. I really wish more people knew about it because it really leaves you thinking…
    Anyway, keep writng!
    Att, G.A.Jara


  3. himani
    August 2, 2013 @ 4:01 am

    Hi Sally!!
    i’m from India . i got your novel ‘ways to live forever’ from our library. I liked it so much that I finished it in a single night. This book and ‘season of secrets’ are both awesome.
    please keep writing!!


  4. priscilla
    July 10, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

    hi, i am from Indonesia. i read ‘ways to live forever’ about 3 years ago at school library. that book was amazing, fantastic and also makes me cries a lot. so i recommended it to my friends and they feel the same. the story makes us realize that we can’t just wasting the time everyday.
    now, i had read it hundred times. i have my own book, both in Indonesian and English.
    sally, you are great, and thank you for those great books!!


  5. HI
    July 9, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

    Ways to Live Forever is a fantabulous and most moving book I have ever read. I can’t wait to read your upcoming book ‘Season of Secrets’


  6. Aminata
    July 7, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

    Hi again I know I have already commented but I have more to say; you are really talented at writing and you have given lots of ideas of what to write about when I’m older and I hope to meet you sometime in my life and I will continue reading your books and recommend them to my friends Xxxx


  7. Aminata
    July 7, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

    Your book is the best book I have read this year it has taught me a lot about about life and I have a lot in common with the main character Sam and I hope that when I’m older I will become an author just like you the book also made me cry!!!


  8. Maike
    July 7, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

    Hi, I’m Maike from Germany. We read “Ways to live forever” at school. First it seemed like a boring book we read at school. But now I think it is a very fantastic story.


  9. Bryan
    June 27, 2013 @ 6:20 am

    This extraordinary book has inspired me to continue writing.


  10. Lucy
    May 9, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

    Me and my friend both have read the book and it was really relatable for both of us thank you it was good to expirence this to be read


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