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When Breath Becomes Air

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

#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... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

14 ratings

Incredibly powerful

I've read nothing like Paul Kalanithi's moving prose about the final days of his incredible life. Other readers who are brave enough to meet their own mortality will likely feel the magic in the honest words of a neurosurgeon's acceptance of his own limitations, the existential questions he was forced to confront, and the powerful forces that unconditional love have on our brief journey thru life.

A powerful, brief read that offers a compelling exploration of life and death

A short read covering one's search for meaning in death. It was a bit strange for me when I was reminded that I was not only reading the words of a dead man but the words of a dying man. I've read "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch and "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. While those books were moving in their own rights, this book affected me in ways that the others did not. Paul Kalanithi's experience with death, as both a doctor and a dying man, left a distinct imprint on me. When Breath Becomes Air was a stark reminder of our own mortality. This book left me thinking about my own mortality and when the time comes for me to reach that stage of life. This book is a rollercoaster of emotions. The book was not only a narration of his life but also an exploration of life and death's meaning and our roles in it. Yet, there were times I felt Kalanthi's writing could use a bit more work. Some sections of Kalanithi's writing were a bit too formal and too clinical. I craved to see more of the man behind the doctor, behind the patient. Some sections read more like an elite essay with literary references and medical terminology rather than a memoir. But the book redeemed itself in the second half and with Lucy's epilogue. The second half of the book was when things became more real and personal. 4/5. It's a powerful, brief read that offers a compelling exploration of life and death. It's both existential and deeply moving. A few of my favorite quotes from this book are below: “You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.” “Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.” “Will having a newborn distract from the time we have together?" she asked. "Don't you think saying goodbye to your child will make your death more painful?" "Wouldn't it be great if it did?" I said. Lucy and I both felt that life wasn't about avoiding suffering.”

Tears and the relatable part of life

This was one of the most relatable books coming from someone who is in the medical field and questions what Paul did everyday. If you are in the medical field and struggle with relationships, faith, and life this book is amazing for you.

Touching insights into humanity in times of crisis

Let me start by saying this books makes me cry every time. The sad beauty of listening to the author detail his own journey from doctor to patient, and how he finds hope (and at times loses it) is indescribable. I encourage everyone I know and now everyone I don't know too to please read this, especially in times of crisis.

Honest and bittersweet

I read this book in 2 days, though I could have finished in a couple of hours if I had the time. There’s nothing else to say, this book is honest and well makes you feel like you are seeing inside this guys soul. So raw and to the point. Usually when you hear about a person with a terminal illness it is usually from the mouth of others around that person. To hear a first hand account makes you look at life in a totally different perspective. May be hard to read for some.


One of my favorites!

Breath, air

Dr. K was real, open, honest. I was drawn ind and couldn't put it down and felt some of his pain, and triumphs. Breath becomes air is a reminder that we will all walk that path, but how we walk is more important than most of us realize or acknowledge.

Fantastic read!

I cannot recommend this book enough! It’s full of life, even through his own death. You feel the love for his wife and family, but you also feel the passion he had for neuroscience and for his patients. As a health care provider myself, I can’t help but truly appreciate I had the chance to read something so beautiful from such a wonderful neurosurgeon, husband, son, and father.

I hope I never get over this book.

Intimate,literate, profoundly moving. A journey down a road we will all make.

Powerful, Moving, Emotional

A touching novel about love, life, and loss. Sometimes it's only in the face of losing it all that we realize what all we really have. This novel is a gift to the world from a man who cherished his life to the last.

A Must-Read

I bought this as a resource for a paper I'm writing about death for a college course. My own husband died in 2015 from cancer, so reading this book was emotional for me. I'm glad I read it. Everyone should read this book. I felt like I knew Paul just from reading his book. And Lucy's ending was very well-written. I finished this in 2 days because I couldn't put it down.

It’s so amazing and so true!

I cried so much. Such a great talented human being. Extremely sad to see him go. All he says is so true. Questions that all human being should ask regardless of their social class, race or gender.

Just a Brilliant Man Lost

Both my husband and I read this in two days. Trying to find 10 used copies to give to our friends. Cannot recommend enough. Ten stars.

Great piece of work. It is will touch your heart definitely.

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