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Review: When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi


Genre: Non-fiction Published: Randomhouse, january 2016 My Rating: 5/5 stars All-time favorite


“You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”

Despite the beautiful truth of the aforementioned quote, this book came pretty close to perfection for me. If I had more stars than 5, I would have given them all to this book.

When Breath Becomes Air is the memoir of Paul Kalanithi, a highly intelligent neurosurgeon, who at the young age of 36 is diagnosed with terminal lungcancer. It chronicals his journey of becoming a doctor, leading up to his diagnosis, followed by his transition from doctor to patient. Paul died in 2015, before being able to finish this book, but left behind this incredible insightful, wise and eloquent piece of work. Pauls wife completed his work with a final chapter that has the rare distinction of being one of the 3 books to make adult me cry.


I cannot even begin to describe what this meant to me. I borrowed this book from the library and it took me all of five seconds after I finished this, to go online and order the hardcover for full price (which my medstudent-budget can definitely not handle). Two minutes after that, I was on the phone with my dad, telling him to pleasepleaseplease read this because I want to talk to somene about this. Thát was how much this meant to me.

Now, a little later, I still think of it. I have reread pages, marked the sh*t out of my own copy and have at times just wanted to hug it for comfort. I have never read a book that has personally resonated with me on so many levels. A tiny little background about me: I am a medical intern, I have survived cancer once, but due to a genetic syndrome I will most likely get cancer again... and maybe even again, until I get a form that I will not survive. I am not telling you to this be dramatic or to get sympathy. I'm telling you because it's why this had such special meaning to me, and the reason I feel I have the right to speak on this book. I have read very few books that made me go: "this is the way I feel". This book did that for me and I cannot thank it enough for doing that.

I wish I could express to the author or his family how much this book means to me. I genuinely hope his family and his daughter are so proud of the legacy their father/brother/husband left for the world with this masterpiece.


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