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When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air

By Paul Kalanithi

  • Release Date: 2016-01-12
  • Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Score: 5
From 8,011 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 PASTE’S BEST MEMOIRS OF THE DECADE • 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.


  • Great book!

    By Gee323
    Inspirational and touching!
  • Phenomenal

    By NovicePhilosopher
    Absolutely life changing.
  • Brilliant

    By lulu chopin
    I laughed and cried and had to look up words, the best reading experience.
  • Meaningful! And a beautiful read

    By Ripudaman92
    I won’t lie that I cried while reading this book. This book raises a question within you, are we leading a meaningful life? Life is short and death is inevitable. This book has left me in thinking about my purpose. I can’t stress more, must read!
  • Riveting!

    By Sweetpolly53
    This book is so full of insight and awesome perspectives! It kept me so interested I had a difficult time putting it down. Paul was such an awesome doctor and human being, able to connect and truly care about his patients as people.
  • Wow

    By Maligvts467
    Beautiful and poignant.
  • Amazing!!!

    By iwantoleageareview
    A must! Brought tears to my eyes, so lovely.
  • My favorite book

    By Wildcat347
    I love, love LOVED this book. Every person I recommend this book falls in love with it as well. It is truly one of those rare books that fully immerse you in the experience. It’s a book that you can’t stop thinking about. A book you can’t wait to get back and read. I can not recommend this enough. It was so inspiring, may the doctor Rest In Peace forever.
  • Beautifully Written

    By PaisleyParkuh
    Emotional and powerful book, get ready for tears towards the end.
  • Interesting

    By LetterLass
    I liked this man, I’m sure he was a great doctor, and it’s clear he died nobly, reflectively, with great humanity and vulnerability. But yet I didn’t love this book. It was interesting but did not affect me as much as I expected it to. I didn’t think the writing was top notch (if he’d become a writer instead of a surgeon, the writing would probably have been less self-conscious and detached). He had a great story to tell & he told it well. But I don’t think this book rose to the level of literature.