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When Breath Becomes Air Hardcover – Deckle Edge, 19 Jan 2016
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"I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option. . . . Part of this book's tremendous impact comes from the obvious fact that its author was such a brilliant polymath. And part comes from the way he conveys what happened to him--passionately working and striving, deferring gratification, waiting to live, learning to die--so well. None of it is maudlin. Nothing is exaggerated. As he wrote to a friend: 'It's just tragic enough and just imaginable enough.' And just important enough to be unmissable."--Janet Maslin, The New York Times"Paul Kalanithi's memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, written as he faced a terminal cancer diagnosis, is inherently sad. But it's an emotional investment well worth making: a moving and thoughtful memoir of family, medicine and literature. It is, despite its grim undertone, accidentally inspiring."--The Washington Post "Paul Kalanithi's posthumous memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, possesses the gravity and wisdom of an ancient Greek tragedy. . . . [Kalanithi] delivers his chronicle in austere, beautiful prose. The book brims with insightful reflections on mortality that are especially poignant coming from a trained physician familiar with what lies ahead. . . . The narrative voice is so assured and powerful that you almost expect him to survive his own death and carry on describing what happened to his friends and family after he is gone."--The Boston Globe "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."--USA Today "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."--Entertainment Weekly "[When Breath Becomes Air] split my head open with its beauty."--Cheryl Strayed "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
"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 "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
About the Author
Paul Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon and writer. He grew up in Kingman, Arizona, and graduated from Stanford University with a BA and MA in English literature and a BA in human biology. He earned an MPhil in history and philosophy of science and medicine from the University of Cambridge and graduated cum laude from the Yale School of Medicine, where he was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha national medical honor society. He returned to Stanford to complete his residency training in neurological surgery and a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience, during which he received the American Academy of Neurological Surgery's highest award for research. He died in March 2015. He is survived by his large, loving family, including his wife, Lucy, and their daughter, Elizabeth Acadia.
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It's a 'must read', inspiring - LIFE CHANGING - book. Paul, it seems to me, was a genius but he wasn't a distant, aloof intellectual - he was a kind, gentle, giving, empathetic person. Humanity is all the poorer now that he has passed away but thanks to and via the legacy of his beautiful writing, his teachings, his lessons, he will continue to inspire and comfort all who come across his giant footprint.
I'm now an unofficial, self-appointed ambassador/promoter of this book and the words and teachings of Paul Kalanithi.
No philosopher can explain the sublime better than this, standing between day and night. It was as if this were the moment God said, “Let there be light!” You could not help but feel your specklike existence against the immensity of the mountain, the earth, the universe, and yet still feel your own two feet on the talus, reaffirming your presence amid the grandeur.”
― Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air
He really writes very well..
Paul Kalanithi was a brilliant brain surgeon when he was diagnosed with an aggressive lung cancer, which despite treatment, continued to spread and ultimately caused his premature death. Paul was also a brilliant and very gifted writer, who, in his long terms plans prior to a diagnosis was going to spend twenty years of his life post-medical career, dedicated to writing. His ability to write shines through in this book. He uses language beautifully and has an almost poetic turn of phrase while remaining brutally honest to the situation he is facing.
Ironically, I found this book to be more about life than death. Paul talks about his journey into medicine and the privilege of being allowed to change the course of a person's life through surgery. His own cancer journey is shown as something he deals with rather than being ruled by. He continues to work and plans to start a family with his wife, Lucy. He charts the difficult transition he needs to make from being the doctor to being the patient and how he is not always successful in doing this.
Only at one point did I feel his usual lucidity fail him. This concerned his feelings about religion, science and meaning in human life, where his view seems to be that if there is to be meaning, there needs to be religion - a proposition that certainly needs more arguing than he is able to give it here.
Overall, an incredibly impressive and deeply moving work.
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