When Breath Becomes Air (Paperback)
  • When Breath Becomes Air (Paperback)

When Breath Becomes Air (Paperback)

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Paperback 256 Pages / Published: 05/01/2017
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Waterstones Non-fiction Book of the Month for January (2017)

Shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year 2016

Shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2017

Be ready. Be seated. See what courage sounds like. See how brave it is to reveal yourself in this way. But above all, see what it is to still live, to profoundly influence the lives of others after you are gone, by your words – Abraham Verghese, foreword to When Breath Becomes Air

An intimate and exquisitely written meditation on the meaning of life by a young neurosurgeon facing terminal cancer. Dr. Paul Kalanithi wrote When Breath Becomes Air in the last 22 months of his life.

The result is an inspirational account of family, medicine and literature, on publication swiftly finding an audience of booksellers moved by its gradual shift from hope to Kalanithi’s dignified acceptance of life’s end. We strongly recommend the emotional investment to read it.

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 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.

Publisher: Vintage Publishing
ISBN: 9781784701994
Number of pages: 256
Weight: 181 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 16 mm


"Powerful and poignant." - The Sunday Times 

"Less a memoir than a reflection on life and purpose... A vital book." - The Economist 

"Extraordinary...Remarkable... luminous, revelatory memoir about mortality and what makes being alive meaningful ... Lyrical, intimate, insistent and profound. Kalanithi had the mind of the polymath and the ear of a poet." - Heather Hodson, Daily Telegraph 

"Powerful and poignant... Elegantly written posthumous memoir... Should be compulsory for anyone who intends to be a doctor... A profound reflection on the meaning of life." - Daisy Goodwin, Sunday Times 

"A stark, fascinating, well-written and heroic memoir." - Stefanie Marsh, The Times

"The power of this book lies in its eloquent insistence that we are all confronting our mortality every day, whether we know it or not. The real question we face, Kalanithi writes, is not how long, but rather how, we will live - and the answer does not appear in any medical textbook." - Alice Okeeffe, Guardian

"Exceptional." - Katie Law, Evening Standard 

"A vital book about dying. Awe-inspiring and exquisite. Obligatory reading for the living." -- Nigella Lawson

"Rattling. Heartbreaking. Beautiful." -- Atul Gawande, author of BEING MORTAL

"A great, indelible book ... as intimate and illuminating as Atul Gawande's "Being Mortal," to cite only one recent example of a doctor's book that has had exceptionally wide appeal ... I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option ... gripping from the start ... None of it is maudlin. Nothing is exaggerated. As he wrote to a friend: "It's just tragic enough and just imaginable enough." And just important enough to be unmissable." * New York Times *

"When I came to the end of the last flawless paragraph of When Breath Becomes Air, all I could do was turn to the first page and read the whole thing again. Searingly intelligent, beautifully written, and beyond brave, I haven't been so marked by a book in years." -- Gabriel Weston, author of DIRECT RED

"A tremendous book, crackling with life, animated by wonder and by the question of how we should live. Paul Kalanithi lived and died in the pursuit of excellence, and by this testimonial, he achieved it." -- Gavin Francis, author of Adventures in Human Being

"A remarkable book... Kalanithi writes very well, in a plain and matter-of-fact way, without a trace of self-pity, and you are immediately gripped and carried along... [He] was clearly a deeply thoughtful and compassionate man, and his death is a great loss to medicine, but at least he has left this remarkable book behind." -- Dr Henry Marsh * Observer *

"A meditation on what makes a life worth living." * Guardian *

"It turns out not really to be about dying at all but about life and how to live it - though the closeness of death gives it an urgency and economy... When Breath Becomes Air is a Renaissance book from a Renaissance man. It is a work of philosophy and morality, a reconciliation of science and religion. There is even plot and excitement... It was only with the restrained, elegant epilogue written by his wife Lucy Kalanithi that I found myself weeping helplessly... When Breath Becomes Air tells us what means to live a good life, by giving us a glimpse into an exceptional one." -- Lucy Kellaway * Financial Times *

"A powerful and compelling read." * The Economist, Book of the Year *

"An astonishingly affecting memoir and eloquent examination of what it is to be human and confront your own mortality... This is a remarkable book by a man who was driven by his passion for his life, his loves and his career. His death is undoubtedly a tragedy but in writing this memoir he has guaranteed that his voice and the important story it tells will resonate for years to come." -- Mernie Gilmore * Daily Express *

"As thought-provoking as it was moving. The sheer exuberance of Kalnithi's intellectual curiosity shone through in his writing." -- Katie Law * Evening Standard, Book of the Year *

"Dr Kalanithi describes, clearly and simply, and entirely without self-pity, his journey from innocent medical student to professionally detached and all-powerful neurosurgeon to helpless patient, dying from cancer. He learns lessons about the reality of illness and the doctor-patient relationship that most doctors only learn in old age but Paul Kalanithi died at the tragically early age of 37. 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

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This is such a beautiful, heart-breaking, heartWARMING book.

The story of Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon diagnosed with lung cancer just as he was completing his residency; this book is the result of him following... More

Hardback edition
28th February 2016
Helpful? Upvote 102

“Written from the heart this book is not just about dying but also about life and how live it”

For anyone who has lost loved ones to Cancer picking up When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi to read may be a difficult choice to make. But I would like you to take a few moments and read on before you decide not... More

Hardback edition
5th March 2016
Helpful? Upvote 94
Hux - Blogger, @littlehux

“A lyrical memoir on the balance of life and death; stunning”

In his sixth year into his residency as a neurosurgeon, Paul discovers he has cancer. Paul always dreamt of being both a writer and doctor, and with time moving on without him, he began his memoir.

When Breath... More

Paperback edition
3 similar books recommended
19th January 2017
Helpful? Upvote 87

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