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Paul Kalanithi’s brilliant book is like his life: not very long, thought-provoking and
hard to forget. His journey toward becoming a doctor was circuitous and from an
unusual perspective. After Bachelor’s degrees in biology and English literature, a
Master’s degree in literature and one in the History and Philosophy of Science and
Medicine, he considered a Ph. D. in English literature but decided on Yale medical
school. The first part of the book is about his search for the intersection of human
connection with science through literature and philosophy.
The second part is about his transition from physician to patient and disease from the
other side after he is diagnosed with lung cancer when he is a neurosurgical resident.
We don’t know when we will die but we can all decide how we will live. Paul’s wife
Lucy said that this memoir, which she had to complete posthumously, “teach(es) us to
face death with integrity.” I believe Paul faced life the same way.
— Sydne, Atlanta
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST - For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, this inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic young neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living? NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BYThe New York Times Book Review - People - NPR - The Washington Post - Slate - Harper's Bazaar - Time Out New York - Publishers Weekly - BookPage Finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Books for a Better Life Award in Inspirational Memoir
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 Becomes Air
chronicles Kalanithi's transformation from a na ve 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.