Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Review: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Title: When Breath Becomes Air
Author: Paul Kalanithi
Enjoyment Rating: *****
Source: Hard Copy
Content Alert: a pretty clean read. There are a handful of swear words, but don't let that hold you back from reading this beautiful book.

When Paul Kalanthi was thirty-six, just a year from completing his training as a neurosurgeon, and just on the verge of finally achieving adulthood, he was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. In When Breath Becomes Air, Kalanthi looks back on his life, especially on his training in medicine and literature, and how those two fields informed his approach to his disease, and, ultimately to his death.

A few years ago, I read a short piece by Kalanthi published in The New York Times. If you've read this blog for a long time, you probably know that I love literature about medicine, and this piece, and this story, really hit home for me, because, like Ed and I a few years earlier, Kalanthi was poised at the beginning of a life he'd spent half a lifetime preparing for. It felt so unfair, and I really admired the poetry of his language and the pathos I felt while reading. When Breath Becomes Air manages to retain the beauty in the language of that shorter piece, while providing a more extended meditation of life. This is a fabulous book for any reader, whether confronting your mortality or not.


ellen said...

I finished this over the weekend; it's so good (and sad...).

Melissa Mc said...

I'm on page 78...unlike anything I've ever read. Poetic, philosophical, humane...absolutely stunning prose. How could he be taken so soon?