When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air

By Paul Kalanithi

  • Release Date: 2016-01-12
  • Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
5 Score: 5 (From 8,245 Ratings)


#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 attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

NAMED ONE OF PASTE’S BEST MEMOIRS OF THE DECADE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • People • NPR • The Washington Post • Slate • Harper’s Bazaar • Time Out New York • Publishers Weekly • BookPage

Finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Books for a Better Life Award in Inspirational Memoir

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.


  • Beautiful

    By RhiannaB2641
    This was a beautifully written piece. Emotional page turner.
  • For everyone.

    By Sauntee
    This is the best book.
  • A well written book, makes you think about your own

    By Loery
    A good read after a long time. Life’s fragile, time is the most important commodity we have, make the best of it.
  • Illuminating

    By Up4ItToo
    Like Martha Weinman Lear’s “Heartsounds”, “When Breath Becomes Air” is an enlightening, medical-insider’s view of life, death, and the period in-between an “I just want my life back” illness, terminal or not. Peppered with snippets of both familiar and esoteric poetry and philosophy, Dr. Kalanithi’s lovely prose will impel you to reinterpret the meaning of both the literature and your own life, and is worthwhile reading for anyone who has, is, or will face serious illness, whether as patient, recovered survivor, caregiver, or loved one. In short, for everyone. It will provide a lasting understanding that you are most definitely not alone.
  • Truly touching story

    By Yumiengelking
    I am a pre-med student, and I come across this book online. I am attracted by the title and the author’s story. I am so happy I didn’t miss this book. I am impressed by Paul’ reflection about death and meaning of life as both a physician and patient. It makes me reflect on why I choose medicine the first place. Paul is an example of the physician I strive to be, a deep thinker, a tender caregiver and a fierce fighter. Amazing read.
  • Amazing

    By cpswank
    Hemingway said, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” This book takes that axiom and turns it into soaring poetry. This is a story of death and dying that is both inspiring and lyrical.
  • Accepting death.

    By Cammie45
    This brave man, husband and physician gave the best last contribution to love, life and death we all face .
  • Great book!

    By Gee323
    Inspirational and touching!
  • Phenomenal

    By NovicePhilosopher
    Absolutely life changing.
  • Brilliant

    By lulu chopin
    I laughed and cried and had to look up words, the best reading experience.