When Breath Becomes Air – Dr. Paul Kalanithi

Feb 28

When Breath Becomes Air – Dr. Paul Kalanithi

You cannot truly prepare yourself to read this memoir by Dr. Paul Kalanithi.
But you must read it, and with a quickness.
When Breath Becomes Air will break your heart in fifty different ways. Dr. Kalanithi was in his final year of residency. He was on the cusp of finishing his training as a neurosurgeon when he was diagnosed with an extremely formidable cancer. Dr. Kalanithi’s unique perspective takes us through his childhood, education, diagnosis, and death in the most profound and beautiful way. His perspective was unique because not only was he a brilliant surgeon; he was also a gifted writer whose love of literature knew no bounds. “Literature not only illuminated another’s experience, it provided, I believed, the richest material for moral reflection.” Years of reflection and the study of words and language led the good doctor to the conclusion that he wanted “direct experience” and action above all. Medicine, as it had to many family members before him, offered that opportunity. His love of the written word comes back with a vengeance after his diagnosis. Words and language offer comfort when science no longer has the answers.

The message he leaves for his daughter had me sobbing uncontrollably for an inordinate length of time. I was telling my own doctor husband about the book over lunch; I think that the waitress maybe thought he was breaking up with me.

This book is an instant classic for me. It should be shelved alongside the works of Sartre and Hemingway. It should be required reading for all first year medical students. It should be within your own sweet hands by the end of the week.

As a side note, this is also my first selection for the Book of the Month Club. Well done, Club, and kudos to my husband for this wonderful birthday gift.

 

 

 

 

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