When Breath Becomes Air


“I don’t believe in the wisdom of children, nor in the wisdom of the old. There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of the living. We are never so wise as when we live in the moment.”

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.

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Comments from other readers:


“A heart breaking read that makes you consider if your life would be valued if you died at such a young age (would I look back and be proud!)  From a clinical point it reminds me of the importance of the patient and their thoughts when caring for them.”


“I found this book to be inspiring on both a professional and personal level. So much so I read it again to take quotes, something I have never done before. Paul Kalanithi has an incredible way of putting into words better than I ever could, thought feelings and experiences of being a health professional, a patient and a person coming to terms with death. ”

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Filed Under Uncategorized Posted by devcore on 26 January 2021