When Breath Becomes Air

The book left me in tears.

The book left me in tears.


Paul Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon and writer who was finishing his residency. At the age of 36 , he was diagnosed with IV lung cancer. The author talks about his experiences with life and death, and the search for meaning.

The writing is very poetic. The author describes his experiences with patients and the moral conflict of being a doctor. One scene that stood out to me was when he was performing assessments on countless patients, but rushed through them without taking the time to understand their emotional needs. The demands of being a doctor have ultimately influenced his emotional state of being desensitized to suffering and loss. When he found that he had IV lung cancer, he describes the transitions from being a doctor to patient. Paul begins to question what makes life worth living in the face of imminent death?

His answer was to commit himself into the passion of his work and his passion for being a neurosurgeon, philosopher, and writer. During his final moments of his illness, he decides to write this book and spend his last moments with his family. The epilogue of his wife stating his final moments of his illness left me in tears. As the couple welcomes a new life, a daughter, they both come at loss of losing another.

The author teaches readers the values of living life to the fullest. The book is beautifully written and insightful book that connects human to life – and why, no matter how curtailed, life is still worth living. And such, we should pursue whatever it is that you value. I highly recommend this book for individuals who also conjecture the same question of what makes life meaningful. Paul left a powerful work of literature that should be taken with maudlin reading.

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