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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
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.

4.3 stars, based on 31 ratings
Publisher: Random House
Book Type: Hardcover
Other Versions: Paperback, Audio CD
Members Wishing: 375
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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 + 818 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.

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Reviewed based on a publisher's galley received through NetGalley
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reviewed When Breath Becomes Air on + 1061 more book reviews
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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