When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi – A Book Review

I was genuinely blown away by this book. I can confidently say it is among my top 3 best reads this year, one deserving of my 5 stars. I read it in such a short time, couldn’t put it down because of how beautiful and powerful it is. I’m not sure if that had anything to do with the mutual love for literature and philosophy I have with the author or my fascination with the medical field, which is now greatly heightened. On the first chapter, I was already looking to see which movie is based on the book and I was a little disappointed to find none.( For some reason though, I kept picturing Malcolm Jamal Warner from the series The Resident on the neurosurgical references).

This book is a captivating memoir detailing the life of Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon, reflecting into his existence and his painful fight with cancer. It details his love for literature and philosophy as he tried to understand the relationship between life, meaning and death, and how he eventually joined medicine to understand how the brain could give rise to an organism capable of finding meaning in the world. To bear witness to the twinned mysteries of life and death; to get to the heart of the matter and to truly understand life and death decisions and struggles.

He got into neurosurgery, as the brain mediates our experience of the world,and any neurosurgical problem therefore forces a patient and the family, with the doctor’s guidance, to answer the question: What makes life meaningful enough to go on living. What makes life worth living, and what devastation makes it reasonable to let that life end.

What makes life meaningful at the face of mortality? When death starts to hover around, how does it alter our priorities and idea of life?

Paul Kalanithi tells of how coming so close to his own mortality changed both nothing and everything. “Before being diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die but I didn’t know when. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live. That even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living. “

Writing the book allowed him to grieve the loss of the future he had planned and forge a new one. It gets very emotional towards the end as he realizes he does not have enough time to even complete his manuscript. This book will leave you stunned and hopeful at the same time with his quiet resilience.

This book evokes so many feelings and forces you to self-analyze how you are living your life. It opens one’s eyes to look at life with a new perspective, one of ensuring to live a life full of meaning. This book gets real, deep, and forces you to think in ways you didn’t know were possible. That is why I love this book, and why you will too. It is as powerful a read as I have ever come across.


Get an ebook copy here. Thank you for passing by my blog.


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