When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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 stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor making a living treati...

Details When Breath Becomes Air

TitleWhen Breath Becomes Air
Release DateJan 19th, 2016
PublisherRandom House
Number of pages208 pages
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Medical, Biography

Reviews When Breath Becomes Air

  • 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 h...
  • Petra Eggs
    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 (view spoiler)[ie. full of shit (hide spoiler)]. He said he didn't know the author at all until after his death. Then he says well he did meet him and they...
  • Elyse
    1/12/16: Update: Just wanted to mention that this book goes on sale today. Its an amazing story!Paul Kalanithi studied literature at Stanford University. For his thesis, he studied the work of Walt Whitman, a poet , who a century before, was possessed by the same questions that haunted him. Kalanithi wanted to find a way to understand and describe what he termed "the Physiological-Spiritual Man." Kalanithi had a passion for literature. He began t...
  • Iris P
    Sharing this interesting New York Times interview with Dr. Lucy Kalanithi.She sounds like a very special person too:http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/hea...***********************************************************Upgrading this to 5 stars, not sure why I didn't before***********************************************************After finishing this profound, emotional memoir I feel like I lost a good friend.Thank you Paul Kalanithi for this beauti...
  • 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,...
  • 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...
  • Jen
    Unforgettable is what Verghese says in his foreword. I agree and am fighting for my own breath to write my thoughts about this stunning memoir that has left me gasping for air. The writing. The emotion. The beauty in the darkness of dying. I mourn the death of this writer, a surgeon of great potential. A doctor of great compassion. But the message he has left us is quite eloquently simple: make life as meaningful as you can in the time you have. ...
  • Sabaa Tahir
    Never has a book turned me into a sad sobbing mess so quickly. Philosophical, beautiful, moving, difficult, heartbreaking. Highly, HIGHLY recommend.
  • Justin
    I read this almost two months ago and realized I never reviewed it. When I finished the book, I just couldn't review it. It's a small book, but it's powerful. I didn't shed any tears at the end of it, but I remember sitting there physically shaking and feeling really numb and tingly. A book has never impacted me that way before, and I'm not even sure why I read the book in the first place since I knew what I was getting myself into. Wait, I know ...
  • Esil
    A very high 4 stars. When Breath Becomes Air is so good and so sad. It's a brief memoir of a life ended way too early. Kalanithi was 35 years old and finishing his training as a neurosurgeon when he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer. As he was living out the end of his life, he wrote this brief powerful memoir. In the first section, he describes how he became aware of his diagnosis -- he essentially self diagnosed. In the secon...
  • Linda O'Donnell
    "To begin with -- or, maybe, to end with --I got to know Paul only after his death. I came to know him most intimately when he'd ceased to be." (Abraham Verghese)And we, for the most part, can actually say the same thing about Paul Kalanithi. We've come to know of him only after he had left this world of ours. Ironically, I write this on March 9th, the one-year anniversary of his passing.Paul Kalanithi: son, husband, father, brilliant surgeon. He...
  • Larry Hoffer
    Wow. I had to wait a little bit to pull myself together before writing a review of this exquisite book, even though I am tremendously late to the party on this one."...See what it is to still live, to profoundly influence the lives of others after you are gone, by your words. In a world of asynchronous communication, where we are so often buried in our screens, our gaze rooted to the rectangular objects buzzing in our hands, our attention consume...
  • Seemita
    [Originally appeared here (with edits): http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/li...]It has been a few days since I turned the last page of this book. But the numbness reappears the instant I allow the pages to unfold in my memory. The silence which suddenly parts to let these memories seep in and cloud my vision, fills the air. Even as I grapple to make ‘sense’ of what it means to lose a dear, dear one, I, ironically, already know that very ‘s...
  • Amanda
    When Breath Becomes Air is one of the most beautifully written, heartbreaking, and affecting memoirs I have ever read. Even though the book is incredibly sad, it is ultimately life affirming and worth the emotional investment.At the age of thirty-six, Paul Kalanthi, a doctor nearing the completion of his neurosurgeon training, is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. This revelation becomes a dividing line in his life, something of a reversal of f...
  • Jill
    Sometimes you don’t go out and find a book; the book finds you. Facing an impending loss without a foundation of faith to fall back on, I find myself asking, “What is the meaning of life if we’re all just going to die?”Paul Kalanithi answers that question in the most meaningful way possible in his outstanding book. A 36-year- old neurosurgeon, Paul wrestled between medicine and literature as an eventual career. Medicine won out and he was...
  • Stephanie
    Beautifully written, ridiculously sad... yet critically important memoir...Updated 12/12/2016 -- thrilled that this wonderful memoir won GRCA autobiography for 2016!Paul Kalanithi had it all. He was a neurosurgeon -- just about to complete his residency --- with a wonderful wife, family, and friends. At the age of thirty-six, after almost completing over 10 years of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cance...
  • Carol
    "This book carries the urgency of racing against time, of having important things to say."I knew going in this would be a tough read for me, and it was, but aside from that, it is a touching, heartbreaking and most "powerful tale of living with death" knocking at your door.Paul Kalanithi, neurosurgeon and writer was only 37 when he passed away from lung cancer, and besides the loss to his wife and family, such a great loss to the medical professi...
  • Joseph
    Okay, I so wanted to like this very absorbing book more than I did. I am not going to recap it other than to say the Paul came from a privileged background, a very supportive family and an Indian (Asian Tiger) mom. He succumbed to an aggressive form of lung cancer. My own wife died of lung disease (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis). Outside of the hospital I was her caregiver for a year and a half. I was the one who made sure she had oxygen, got to ...
  • Councillor
    Paul Kalanithi, the author of this touching memoir, died of stage IV lung cancer in March 2015, ten months before the publication of the novel which would not only raise attention to his fate, but also to the general effects of the terrible disease that is cancer (which should never cease to deserve attention; it is a subject too important). When I first opened the pages of this book, what I expected was a clinical description of his disease's co...
  • Kelli
    With over 1200 reviews in just over a month, there isn't much I can say that hasn't been said. I'm not sure I even need to acknowledge the brilliance, ambition, tenacity, curiosity, and endurance this man possessed or the fact that he wrote in a way that felt conversational and genuine, even when discussing procedures of the brain and medical school examples well outside most people's normal realm. His wife's epilogue was extremely well-written a...
  • Eve
    “Servere illness wasn’t life altering, it was life shattering. It felt less like an epiphany, a piercing burst of light illuminating what really matters, and more like someone had just firebombed the path forward. Now I would have to work around it.” Paul Kalanithi is just thirty-six years old when he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer. Before entering the medical field, he debated about whether to follow his love of literature into a teach...
  • Rebecca Foster
    (4.5) I’m something of an aficionado of cancer memoirs, a subgenre that appeals for family history reasons but also because I appreciate stories lived right on the knife edge of life and death. Here’s one I would recommend to anyone for the beauty of its prose – a fine blend of literature and medicine – and the simple yet wholehearted picture of a life cut short.Paul Kalanithi was 36 and just completing his neurosurgery residency in Stanf...
  • Philipp
    alternative title: "How the upper class dies"Autobiographical book by a guy who's trained and studied all his life, nearly became a writer, then chose to become a doctor instead (that's what happens when you come from a family of medical doctors), and is diagnosed with cancer at the end of his training. Torschlusspanik [1] sets in and he has to write that one book he always wanted to write. It's partially an autobiography of his training, a hymn ...
  • Glenn Sumi
    By now I’m sure you’ve all heard about this book by the young Dr. Paul Kalanithi, who, in his mid-30s, was completing his training as a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. At the time, he and his wife Lucy, also a physician, were contemplating having children. Universities were wooing him. The future was all mapped out, years of hard work about to pay off.And then he got the news about his cancer. ...
  • Perry
    Memoir, Moving Message, a Morning GloryAs memorable as it is moving for not only the charm and impact of Dr. Paul Kalanithi's writing but his impressive might to complete the memoir's manuscript maugre the malignancy that ultimately ended his life before he could finish writing it. Though I'd never presume as much, I try to maintain my faith that a reason exists for the premature death of someone like Paul Kalanithi, who was ably devoted to givin...
  • Sue
    I found this to be a very thought provoking, resonant, difficult at times, and oh so human memoir. Very relatable for me, especially in parts that might not be so to other readers. Kalanithi was a resident neurosurgeon, neuroscientist, with aspirations to become a writer later in life when he was diagnosed with a virulent lung malignancy that was to end all of his plans and goals. His memoir becomes a thrashing out of his life before and after, a...
  • Trish
    What makes human life meaningful? Kalanithi, a thirty-six year old neurosurgeon, tried to locate the nexus of language between science and philosophy to answer the question. “Literature provide[s] the best account of a life of the mind, illuminates another’s experience, and provides the richest material for moral reflection.” There is messiness and weight in real human life that is not accounted for by science, says Kalanithi. Science and a...
  • Diane
    This was a moving book written by a young doctor who was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. The memoir covers Paul's experiences as a medical student, why he chose to study medicine, and how quickly he had to adapt to being diagnosed with a deadly disease.Part of this book's meaning comes from the sense that it is unfinished, because Paul's life was cut short by cancer. There is a desperation to his writing, the urge to get thoughts down on pap...
  • Lindsay
    4.5 stars! What an emotional book! Dr. Paul Kalanithi was a neurosurgical resident entering his final year of training when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. This memoir is Paul's story for his daughter, Cady, who was 8 months old when he passed away, just 22 months after his cancer diagnosis. Among other things, Paul writes about his career, his love for his family, his views on the 'doctor and patient relationship' and his eventual tr...