When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air

For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?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...

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Title:When Breath Becomes Air
Author:Paul Kalanithi
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Edition Language:English

When Breath Becomes Air Reviews

  • Maxwell

    I don't think you should read this book because the story of an incredibly gifted man who had his life taken away at such a young age might give you the motivation to live life more fully. I think you should read this book because that talented, inspiring man has incredibly important things to say derived from his own experiences, and it's important to listen and learn from them.

    Read this book with the knowledge that you might not always be able to understand everything someone goes through, bu

    I don't think you should read this book because the story of an incredibly gifted man who had his life taken away at such a young age might give you the motivation to live life more fully. I think you should read this book because that talented, inspiring man has incredibly important things to say derived from his own experiences, and it's important to listen and learn from them.

    Read this book with the knowledge that you might not always be able to understand everything someone goes through, but you can set aside the time to listen to their story and hopefully give them the dignity and respect they deserve as a human being, in life or death.

    -Paul Kalanithi

  • Maggie Stiefvater

    A gasping, desperate, powerful little book, bigger on the inside than outside.

    It's a little bit about dying, but more about being alive.

  • Diane S ☔

    As I finished this book with tears running down my face I asked myself, "Why did you read this book? You know it was going to be sad, how could a man dying of lung cancer before the age of forty be anything but." Yet to just classify this memoir, to classify this novel as such is to devalue the man he was. He was a lover of literature, a neurosurgeon, a scientist, a son and brother, a husband and father. He tried to live each day to the best of his ability, he helped many and he acknowledged the

    As I finished this book with tears running down my face I asked myself, "Why did you read this book? You know it was going to be sad, how could a man dying of lung cancer before the age of forty be anything but." Yet to just classify this memoir, to classify this novel as such is to devalue the man he was. He was a lover of literature, a neurosurgeon, a scientist, a son and brother, a husband and father. He tried to live each day to the best of his ability, he helped many and he acknowledged the doctor patient relationship had a big disconnect with the reality of life, how their lives would change after being diagnosed with a serious illness. He was not a saint, he cried when given a death sentence, but his thoughts were not always for him, he always wanted to make sure his wife had a life after he was gone. So in many ways this was a profoundly beautiful read by a remarkable man.

    His wife says it best, "What happened to Paul was tragic, but he was not a tragedy."

  • Petra Xcess

    I finished the book. I'm glad that I perservered with it. It's quite an odd book and an overall rating might be the sum of the parts, but is not going to reflect the writing or content of those parts.

    The first part, the foreword, by Abraham Verghese, was verbose, hagiographic and contradictory

    . He said he didn't know the author at all until after his death. Then he says well he did meet him and they had a long email correspondence. And so it goes.

    I finished the book. I'm glad that I perservered with it. It's quite an odd book and an overall rating might be the sum of the parts, but is not going to reflect the writing or content of those parts.

    The first part, the foreword, by Abraham Verghese, was verbose, hagiographic and contradictory

    . He said he didn't know the author at all until after his death. Then he says well he did meet him and they had a long email correspondence. And so it goes. He says it's the foreword but should be the afterword. Verghese must have sat there with a thesaurus composing endless sentences of praise for the author, who had, like most of us, never accomplished anything much out of the ordinary. I dnf'd this part and give it a whole, rounded-up 1 star.

    The second part, I feel churlish writing this, I really do. The author had an interesting career in his short life, mostly as a student. He had a MA in English Literature, another MA in History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine, a BSc in Human Biology and finally an MD from Yale, before going on to be a neurosurgeon.

    It was in his brief career as a neurosurgeon and scientist he was diagnosed with cancer. He tried his best to be introspective and give guidance through the exponentially-increasing awfulness that is the journey through this dread disease. The problem was, he wasn't a natural writer although he'd wanted to be one all his life. Hi prose might have been just the stuff of essays at his Ivy League universities, but to me it is reminiscent of a writers' group where each attempt to outdo each other with portent-laden phrases and lots of deep literary references. It was tedious in parts. But... he did his best and he was a good doctor, husband and father, and this was only his debut book. Five stars for the man, but three stars, just, for this central section of the book.

    The long afterword is written by his widow. She is a doctor too, but could easily be a writer. She just has 'it' and her late husband, who wanted it so much, didn't. She rounds out the story he told, and continued on at length in the most interesting and well-written part of the book. Her ability to convey emotion without getting either lyrical or sappy was excellent. Five stars. Dr. Lucy Kalanithi should have been credited as co-author. I hope she goes on writing

    It won't make sense to read the last part without the second, but you can easily skip the foreword, all it adds is unnecessary verbiage and lots of pages to make it look more than just the thin tome it really is.

    ________________

    An example of the really rather awful writing that got me down. You may disagree, you may feel that the three words I suggest - dawn came up, are no substitute for the 150 poetic, lyrical, descriptive ones the author wrote instead. I'm too hard, right?

  • Aisling

    Oh dear. I was always told not to speak ill of the dead. It feels awful to give a three star rating to a nice guy (by all accounts) who is now dead. But I simply did not find this book compelling or insightful enough. It is mildly interesting to learn about neurosurgery as a specialty and to read the author's thoughts as he faced diagnosis, illness and then death. I always felt that the author was holding back; that it was too clinical, too calm, just not passionate enough. The first time I felt

    Oh dear. I was always told not to speak ill of the dead. It feels awful to give a three star rating to a nice guy (by all accounts) who is now dead. But I simply did not find this book compelling or insightful enough. It is mildly interesting to learn about neurosurgery as a specialty and to read the author's thoughts as he faced diagnosis, illness and then death. I always felt that the author was holding back; that it was too clinical, too calm, just not passionate enough. The first time I felt that I was reading something worthwhile was in the 26 page epilogue by the author's wife. I guess the best way to say it is this; this is a quick read. And of course it should not be.

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