When Breath Becomes Air
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST - This exquisite memoir by an idealistic young neurosurgeon asks What makes a life worth living? and makes a profound graduation gift--especially for aspiring doctors and nurses.
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 - Esquire - 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 na ve 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.
Praise for When Breath Becomes Air
"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."--Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"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
"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 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
Shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year 2016.
"A vital book about dying. Awe-inspiring and exquisite. Obligatory reading for the living." -- Nigella Lawson "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 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 "A 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 "Powerful and poignant." The Sunday Times
PAUL KALANITHI was a neurosurgeon and writer. He held degrees in English literature, human biology, and history and philoso-phy of science and medicine from Stanford and Cambridge universities before graduating from Yale School of Medicine. He also received the American Academy of Neu-rological 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.