When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air

By Paul Kalanithi

  • Release Date: 2016-01-12
  • Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Score: 5
From 6,599 Ratings


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • 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 BY The 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 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.

Amazon/iTunes Reviews

  • What an amazing true story

    By kelgailshel
    I know this line is used a lot for literary reviews, but I could not put this book down. Myself, being a light reader, read this in 2 days and was only disheartened that it was over. Such a wonderful story for the medical profession!
  • When Air Becomes Death

    By PugSwa
    This is the first book that I have ever read and immediately read again. I needed to bathe in his words, again. Poignant, heartbreaking, brave, excellent in every way.
  • One of the finest collections

    By Dr_Sam93
    An autobiography of a neurosurgeon at Stanford and a fighter of stage IV lung cancer teaches us how to see the life beyond the two ends, beyond the science, helps to understand what makes human life meaningful, what defines our identity and most importantly understand death and face the mortality!
  • Heartbreakingly beautiful

    By ACK2019
    Dr. Kalanithi’s commitment to sharing his journey with us is beyond admirable. His writing is beautiful and his character even more so. He truly shows us what a life of integrity and meaning are. Thank you to he and his family for sharing this intimate memoir with us.
  • Life and Death.

    By Nailah27
    This book is amazing, as a person not interested in epidemiology and getting past the details of surgery, Paul tells a compelling story and teaches an important lesson. He teaches readers to find purpose in your life and live a meaningful life, one that will be remembered. He gives new heights to the saying “Live everyday like it’s your last”. I feel very moved and privileged to have read this book and experienced (through words) a part of Dr. Paul Kalanithi’s life. Thank you Lucy.
  • Most touching book I’ve ever read

    By AuntJannie
    It is a sad but beautiful story. Paul was an amazing human being. So much wisdom, such a generous spirit.
  • Beautiful Read

    By EmreCakirSC
    I read this book in one sitting. It truly is captivating and so beautiful. I truly felt like I was there with Paul during his battle with cancer. Thank you Paul for making me think about my own life and relationship with death.
  • I am glad that I read it on iPad, but I nonetheless got a hardcopy.

    By jzhu2018
    I started, and finished very soon, the book after spending some time myself in hospital. The book offers a calm and calming meditation of life by providing an account of death, narrated by the author Paul, a neurosurgeon and writer who is capable of operating with the finest precision both in brains and words. The prose in the book is poignant, emotions honest, and sentiments long-lasting. The author blended and balanced some right amounts of sorrow, wisdom, and humor. It is clear that many thoughts in the book had their origins in philosophy, but they were streamlined, by the authors’ able hands, into sentences that are clear, crisp, and comprehensible. However, the book requires emotional investments, which promise to return enormous benefits. Reading the book on my iPad, I became oblivious of progress bar that indicates both the completion of book, as well as the completion of the author’s life. It was therefore painful to find that the book stopped an abrupt stop. Paul announced his goal of writing this book only in the very end: to let the readers “walk in the shoes” of death, and realize it is the only finality. “Sooner or later”, he says. As a neurosurgeon, his goal was to help his patients to navigate through the vast uncertain area of death. This goal is equally achieved for his readers, in this book.
  • Powerful

    By As if it needed another rating
    Powerful and somehow delicate at times.
  • Heart-wrenching read

    By johnmfreder
    Unbelievably satisfying and gripping. What a true warrior.