When Breath Becomes Air
Shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year
THE NEW YORK TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
'Finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option...Unmissable' New York Times
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade's training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.
When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi's transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity - the brain - and finally into a patient and a new father.
What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?
Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.
- Hardback | 256 pages
- 138 x 204 x 26mm | 376g
- 16 Feb 2016
- Vintage Publishing
- The Bodley Head Ltd
- London, United Kingdom
Every doctor should read this book - written by a member of our own tribe, it helps us understand and overcome the barriers we all erect between ourselves and our patients as soon as we are out of medical school" -- Henry Marsh, author of Do No Harm "To the venerable canon of doctors who could write (from Chekhov to Oliver Sacks and Atul Gawande), another name can be added: that of Paul Kalanithi... Brilliantly written." -- Louise Carpenter * Sunday Telegraph * "Paul Kalanithi's memoir, When Breath Becomes Air... split my head open with its beauty. Truly. Madly. Deeply." -- Cheryl Strayed, author of WILD "Thanks to When Breath Becomes Air, those of us who never met Paul Kalanithi will both mourn his death and benefit from his life. This one of a handful of books I consider to be a universal donor - I would recommend it to anyone, everyone." -- Ann Patchett, author of BEL CANTO "A remarkable book about what it means to live...a tour de force...The book will be compared inevitably to Sacks' work and also to the iconic book that Joan Didion wrote about grief, The Year of Magical Thinking. And like that book, it's destined to become an elegiac classic on the subject of mortality. But it's a different feeling from Didion's gorgeous, melancholy fog of war. When Breath Becomes Air is electrically alive in its anticipation of death." -- Lisa Chase * Elle * "It is [his wife] Lucy who completes the book with an honesty and elegance that echoes his own... This book goes a long way to achieving what Kalanithi wanted to achieve - helping people understand death and face their mortality. He emerges as a fine man who faced his own with fortitude and integrity." -- Louise Jury * Independent * "Eloquent, elegant, heartbreaking memoir... As [Kalanithi] courageously faces his death, he takes care to celebrate love and hope in this sorrowful but ultimately life-affirming book." -- Eithne Farry * Sunday Express * "It's a story so remarkable, so stunning, and so affecting that I had to take dozens of breaks just to compose myself enough to get through it...Although you know how this one ends, you still can't believe it. That's because the author -- a nonsmoker whose cancer was the result of a genetic mutation -- is so likeable, so relatable, and so humble, that you become immersed in his world and forget where it's all heading. It occurs to me, as I close this book again (but not for the final time), that when I'm next on rounds in the hospital, I will have something devastating and spectacular to recommend." -- Matt McCarthy * USA Today * "[A]n emotional investment well work making: a moving and thoughtful memoir of family, medicine and literature...His words are bracing for their honesty. He also writes beautifully about the philosophical aspect of medicine, neurosurgery in particular." -- Nora Krug * Washington Post * "It would be hard to conceive of a more tragic story... Kalanithi provides a uniquely valuable perspective... [He] writes with eloquence, humour and honesty from both sides of the medical fence. His prose is fluid and precise, enlivened by brisk dialogue and offbeat anecdotes, mixing a surgeon's precision with a human touch... Filled to the brim...with joy, humour and meaning." -- Wendy Moore * Literary Review * "Devastating account of the shift from doctor to patient." -- Charlotte Heathcote * Daily Express * "A deeply thoughtful and beautifully written book on the question of what makes life worth living." * Macmillan Cancer Support *
About Paul Kalanithi
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.