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When Breath Becomes Air
When Breath Becomes Air
Author: Paul Kalanithi
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Bec...  more » chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.
ISBN-13: 9780812988406
ISBN-10: 081298840X
Publication Date: 1/19/2016
Pages: 256
Rating:
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 34

4.2 stars, based on 34 ratings
Publisher: Random House
Book Type: Hardcover
Other Versions: Paperback, Audio CD
Members Wishing: 370
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Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed When Breath Becomes Air on + 329 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This was a sad but heartwarming book about a young doctor diagnosed with lung cancer. It is a story about his hopes and dreams and his battle with this awful disease. Well written and a truly remarkable young man..
reviewed When Breath Becomes Air on + 828 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi are the words of a physician taking a philosophical look at his own profession and the words of a young man brought face to face with his own mortality. What can I possibly say about a book that comprises the final words of a dying man? My recommendation - Read it, and then perhaps read it again. It will leave you changed.

Read my complete review at: http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2016/02/when-breath-becomes-air.html

Reviewed based on a publisher's galley received through NetGalley
reviewed When Breath Becomes Air on + 175 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
5.0 out of 5 stars -- I do not usually read memoirs or nonfiction but I was drawn to this because the forward was written by Abraham Verghese, the author of one of my favorite books of all time -- CUTTING FOR STONE.

Ostensibly, the book is about the life of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a young man who is in the last year of his neurosurgery residency when he is diagnosed with lung cancer. We know at the outset that he has recently died, leaving behind a wife and an 8-month-old baby girl. But the true nature of his writing is the underlying theme -- Why are we here -- what is the purpose of life.

The book is not maudlin or dramatic, and it's not for everyone. There's a lot of medical detail and literature references that some might find pretentious or overwhelming. After all, Paul initially majored in Literature before he was called to become a physician and surgeon. The reader learns of Paul's early years, growing up in Arizona, and about his education and training in his young adulthood. Then it shifts to his changed circumstances and his treatment after being diagnosed. We see glimpses into his personal life and hear about his closeness to his family, colleagues and friends. What the book most definitely not is a roadmap, nor a guide of how to navigate a terminal illness -- it's not a story of how he found religion, and it definitely does not provide THE ANSWER.

I feel that the mark of a really great book is when it makes me think. When it causes me to pause for periods of intense self-reflection. I do not want to live an unexamined life. I read this over the course of a couple of hours and had to take a break just to reflect on some of Paul's personal insights. These were his thoughts, his reactions, his decisions. What would mine be, given my own life situations. It made me wish that this poetic soul had received the gift of more time. I came away from this reading experience humbled by his story. I would like to think I will go gently and courageously, not screaming WHY ME -- but none of us knows until it happens. Can a person prepare for death, really?

I'd recommend this for the beautiful prose and for giving the opportunity to see what one man did and said and thought during the last months of his life. How would I like to be remembered...what will I leave behind.

Thank you to NetGalley for the e-book ARC to review.
reviewed When Breath Becomes Air on + 1071 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Paul Kalanithi examined his life as few people ever do. In very human and relatable terms, and without the overbearing religious slant that would have been a turn-off for me, he described not only the often ugly daily realities of coping with his disease but also his unceasing quest for meaning. His thoughts and insights--almost never self-pitying or maudlin--left many unanswered (or unaswerable) questions. Overall, however, and especially at the end, they seemed to give him a large measure of peace. I think his triumph was that such great sadness still left room for such a surprising amount of joy. It was a sad but not depressing book, and one that left me with much to think about.
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