A New York Times Bestseller
An Entertainment Weekly Best Book of 2016
A New York Times Best Book of 2016
A Washington Post Best Book of 2016
An NPR Best Book of 2016
An Amazon Best Book of January 2016
A BookPage Top Pick for January 2016
A Kirkus Reviews Pick for 11 Books That Grab You from Page One
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 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.
Thanks to When Breath Becomes Air, those of us who never met Paul Kalanithi will both mourn his death and benefit from his life. This is one of a handful of books I consider to be a universal donor—I would recommend it to anyone, everyone.Ann Patchett
Rattling, heartbreaking, and ultimately beautiful, the too-young Dr. Kalanithi’s memoir is proof that the dying are the ones who have the most to teach us about life.Atul Gawande
[When Breath Becomes Air] split my head open with its beauty.Cheryl StrayedA moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity . . . Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former.Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Dr. Kalanithi describes, clearly and simply, and entirely without self-pity, his journey from innocent medical student to professionally detached and all-powerful neurosurgeon to helpless patient, dying from cancer. Every doctor should read this book—written by a member of our own tribe, it helps us understand and overcome the barriers we all erect between ourselves and our patients as soon as we are out of medical school.Henry Marsh, author of Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery
“This is one of a handful of books I consider to be a universal donor—I would recommend it to anyone, everyone.”
Ann Patchett, New York Times bestselling authorA tremendous book, crackling with life, animated by wonder and by the question of how we should live. Paul Kalanithi lived and died in the pursuit of excellence, and by this testimonial, he achieved it.Gavin Francis, author of Adventures in Human Being
“Dr. Kalanithi’s memoir is proof that the dying are the ones who have the most to teach us about life.”
Atul Gawande, New York Times bestselling author
“It’s [Kalanithi’s] unsentimental approach that makes When Breath Becomes Air so original—and so devastating…Its only fault is that the book, like his life, ends much too early.”
“Devastating and spectacular…[Kalanithi] is so likeable, so relatable, and so humble, that you become immersed in his world and forget where it’s all heading.”
“None of it is maudlin. Nothing is exaggerated…Unmissable.“
New York Times
“A moving and thoughtful memoir of family, medicine, and literature…Inspiring.”
“When Breath Becomes Air possesses the gravity and wisdom of an ancient Greek tragedy.”
"Not just a look at what living is and how it works from a scientific perspective but the ins and outs of what makes life matter.”
“A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“This eloquent, heartfelt meditation on the choices that make life worth living, even as death looms, will prompt readers to contemplate their own values and mortality.”
“In an eloquent and deeply moving memoir, Kalanithi recounts the moment when his future evaporated and life became intensely focused on the here and now.”
Cassandra Campbell, Audie Award–nominated narrator and winner of several Earphones Awards, has performed in regional theaters across the country and in several off-Broadway shows at the Public Theater and the Mint Theater. In addition to narrating audiobooks, acting, and directing, she is a commercial and documentary voice-over artist.
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- Publisher: Penguin Random House
- Genre: Nonfiction/Biography & Autobiography
- ISBN-13: 9780399566172