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 treating the dying, and th...

Details When Breath Becomes Air

TitleWhen Breath Becomes Air
Release DateJan 19th, 2016
PublisherRandom House
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Biography, Health, Medicine

Reviews When Breath Becomes Air

  • Petra-X
    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. Ratings, part I, 1 star, part II, 3 stars and part III, 5 stars.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 ...
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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 beautiful gift you left for us...
  • Elyse Walters
    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...
  • 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 ...
  • 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 that 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...
  • 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 ...
  • Sabaa Tahir
    Never has a book turned me into a sad sobbing mess so quickly. Philosophical, beautiful, moving, difficult, heartbreaking. Highly, HIGHLY recommend.
  • Sid
    "ALL ORDERS TEND TOWARDS ENTROPY" This is the story of the perception and management of life and death (both separately and together) of a 36 year old doctor nearing the completion of his neurosurgery training when he got diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer. Being a person on the path of being a surgeon, having a love for books, philosophy, literature, writing and a thirst to know deeper meaning for life, I felt I could understand the author very wel...
  • 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. ...
  • Always Pouting
    Paul Kalanithi is thirty six and so close to finishing his training as a neurosurgeon when he finds out he has stage IV lung cancer. As an undergraduate Kalanithi studied English literature and his love of reading and writing had been a constant through out his life. He had always felt that when he was older he would like to write and had decided to focus on neurosurgery for now, where he could make a bigger difference by saving people's lives. A...
  • Nick
    I can't express enough my admiration for this book, for Paul Kalanithi himself.Thank you Paul, thank you for showing us what is life really about.I hope you found the meaning of life and death, the one you searched endlessly.Sir, you will be remembered.
  • Larry H
    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...
  • Michelle
    “When Breath Becomes Air” is not only poignant, touching, and painful -- it is also full of love, insight, courage and humility. I’m thankful Paul Kalanithi found a way to share his love of writing and prodigious talents with the world, especially under such harrowing circumstances. The world is a richer place because of it… And at heart, this is a life-affirming book. It was for me, anyway.Paul expresses, lived, and has shared how meanin...
  • Warda
    “Thank you for loving me.”My heart is full! I was not expecting for this book to have the impact on me that it did. What a beautiful account of a man who truly lived his life to the fullest, despite dying quite young. He gave an incredible and resilient narrative on dealing and living with lung cancer and it unexpectedly shortening your life, but fighting through it despite all odds. Creating a new life, a new dream in that present moment and...
  • Linda
    "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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • Lola
    Imagine being sick and dying slowly, without knowing how long you have left.Long enough to keep going on as you did before: working, planning, and dreaming of a future, or long enough to live life like there is no tomorrow?Paul’s calling—neurosurgery—pulled him back to work even as he knew he was ill, because he couldn’t envision leaving it behind to focus on making the most of the perhaps little (or long) time he has left. At the same ti...
  • 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...
  • Rebecca
    Our shadow panel selection for the Wellcome Book Prize 2017. I first read this book a year and a half ago; when I picked it back up recently, I thought I’d give it just a quick skim to remind myself why I loved it. Before I knew it I’d read 50 pages, and I finished it the next night in the car on the way back from a family party, clutching my dinky phone as a flashlight, awash in tears once again. (To put this in perspective: I almost never r...
  • Jaline
    Nestled between a wonderful tribute by Abraham Verghese in the form of a Foreword and his wife Lucy’s few chapters, beautiful and poignant in an Epilogue, are the pages containing Paul Kalanithi’s words.Paul Kalanithi tells his story in two parts – his life as a son and brother growing up mostly in Arizona, his College life, then his University experiences and early career years comprise the first part. In the second part, we are invited in...
  • Raeleen Lemay
    This was such a beautiful, touching book! Not going to lie, the epilogue by Paul's wife nearly made me cry. SO GOOD. I also highly recommend the audiobook, although the narrator's voice was so soothing that sometimes I found myself not listening to him speak... my bad.
  • Paul Bryant
    Paul Kalanithi tells us about a 62 year old man with a brain tumor.We strolled into his room on morning rounds and the resident asked him “Mr Michaels, how are you feeling?”“Four six one eight nineteen!” he replied, somewhat affably. The tumor had interrupted his speech circuitry, so he could speak only in streams of numbers, but he still had prosody, he could still emote : smile, scowl, sigh. He recited another series of numbers, this ti...
  • 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...