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When Breath Becomes Air Paperback – 5 Jan 2017
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Audio CD, Audiobook, Unabridged
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"A vital book about dying. Awe-inspiring and exquisite. Obligatory reading for the living." (Nigella Lawson)
"Rattling. Heartbreaking. Beautiful." (Atul Gawande, author of BEING MORTAL)
"A great, indelible book ... as intimate and illuminating as Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal,” to cite only one recent example of a doctor’s book that has had exceptionally wide appeal ... I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option ... gripping from the start ... 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." (New York Times)
"Powerful and poignant." (The Sunday Times)
"Less a memoir than a reflection on life and purpose… A vital book." (The Economist)
"Extraordinary…Remarkable… luminous, revelatory memoir about mortality and what makes being alive meaningful ... Lyrical, intimate, insistent and profound. Kalanithi had the mind of the polymath and the ear of a poet." (Heather Hodson Daily Telegraph)
"Powerful and poignant… Elegantly written posthumous memoir… Should be compulsory for anyone who intends to be a doctor… A profound reflection on the meaning of life." (Daisy Goodwin Sunday Times)
"A stark, fascinating, well-written and heroic memoir." (Stefanie Marsh The Times)
"The power of this book lies in its eloquent insistence that we are all confronting our mortality every day, whether we know it or not. The real question we face, Kalanithi writes, is not how long, but rather how, we will live – and the answer does not appear in any medical textbook." (Alice Okeeffe Guardian)
"Exceptional." (Katie Law Evening Standard)
About the Author
PAUL KALANITHI was a neurosurgeon and writer. He held degrees in English literature, human biology, and history and philosophy of science and medicine from Stanford and Cambridge universities before graduating from Yale School of Medicine. He also received the American Academy of Neurological Surgery’s highest award for research.
His reflections on doctoring and illness have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Paris Review Daily.
Kalanithi died in March 2015, aged 37. He is survived by 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.
I'm glad I read it and would encourage others to read it also, but it wasn't the book I was expecting. I wanted to look death fully in the face, accept its inevitability and learn a little about that process. Instead Paul's illness appears as an inconvenience limiting his ability to work and restricting the degree to which he can come to know his daughter. Like many Americans Paul is religious which seems to deprive death of its finality, appearing only in occasional glimpses. As an atheist I view death very differently but I admire him none the less.
This book isn't a page turner by any means. In fact, quite the opposite. It's a book that you'll read to a certain phrase or sentence and have to shut it so that you can have a moment to yourself to just think and reflect. It's an honest and blunt assessment of life and death from the perspective of someone who has been surrounded by it for many years before ultimately facing it themselves. It offers beautiful writing, but in a way that is completely unpretentious. It is thought-provoking to say the least - I've found myself thinking about it years after I first read it. There are some books that I'm happy to recommend and share with my friends, and some that I want to keep close to my chest and protect like a secret. This is one of the latter, but I think it holds that resonance with a lot of people.
If you're interested in this book, you must buy it. It will break your heart and heal it all over again, and very possibly change your outlook on life.