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When Breath Becomes Air When Breath Becomes Air Editorial Review: #1¬†NEW YORK TIMES¬†BESTSELLER ‚ÄĘ PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST ‚ÄĘ¬†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 ‚ÄĘ¬†People ‚ÄĘ NPR ‚ÄĘ¬†The Washington Post ‚ÄĘ¬†Slate ‚ÄĘ¬†Harper‚Äôs Bazaar ‚ÄĘ¬†Esquire¬†‚ÄĘ¬†Time Out New York ‚ÄĘ¬†Publishers Weekly ‚ÄĘ¬†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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs transformation from a na√Įve medical student ‚Äúpossessed,‚ÄĚ as he wrote, ‚Äúby the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life‚ÄĚ 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. ‚ÄúI began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,‚ÄĚ he wrote. ‚ÄúSeven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‚ÄėI can‚Äôt go on. I‚Äôll go on.‚Äô‚ÄĚ 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.
Praise for When Breath Becomes Air
‚ÄúI guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option. . . . Part of this book‚Äôs tremendous impact comes from the obvious fact that its author was such a brilliant polymath. And part comes from the way he conveys what happened to him‚ÄĒpassionately working and striving, deferring gratification, waiting to live, learning to die‚ÄĒso well.‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒJanet Maslin, The New York Times
‚ÄúAn emotional investment well worth making: a moving and thoughtful memoir of family, medicine and literature. It is, despite its grim undertone, accidentally inspiring.‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒThe Washington Post
‚ÄúPossesses the gravity and wisdom of an ancient Greek tragedy . . . [Kalanithi] delivers his chronicle in austere, beautiful prose. The book brims with insightful reflections on mortality that are especially poignant coming from a trained physician familiar with what lies ahead.‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒThe Boston Globe
‚ÄúDevastating and spectacular . . . [Kalanithi] is so likeable, so relatable, and so humble, that you become immersed in his world and forget where it‚Äôs all heading.‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒUSA Today