When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air

By Paul Kalanithi

  • Release Date: 2016-02-04
  • Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Score: 4.5
From 392 Ratings
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'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 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.


  • Torn Between

    By Leggy from Down Under
    Thankfully I see that not everyone rated this book as brilliant. Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing journey through a gifted persons career & short life, however I did struggle with highbrow words (myself a Medical Scientist) & towards the end his fight with cancer. It is blaringly obvious that we as readers will react in different ways to this journey, question logic, science, the will to live or die in the face of such devastating odds.
  • When Breathe Becomes Air

    By Footmum
    To think a person even to the very end wanted to give and share the most intimate phase of his life. To me was incredibly touching. I felt priveleged to read his journey.
  • So well written

    By msbarac
    As someone who has a passion for death and dying this book is wonderful, so well written, and filled with heartfelt human warmth. Paul I thank you for the gift of this book.
  • Outstanding enlightening emotionally moving biography

    By ShempFshempfinkle
    I loved reading this book from introduction to completion. It provided insight into the life of an intelligent compassionate person who took us through his life story and through to his early passing. This book is one that I’m sure to read again, several times.
  • When breath becomes air

    By Duckie Clark
    Excellent, thought provoking and real.
  • Thank you Paul

    By Mr Bada$$
    Thank you Paul May you Rest In Peace
  • When breath becomes air

    By SK Ncube
    I lost my Dad 10 months ago, I had tears flowing down my chicks as I was reading this book. A must read, for we all shall depart from this earth.
  • Amazing, enthralling, deep, passionate,

    By GSOC
    There is not enough superlatives to describe this book. I am so moved and thankful for this book. Thank you Paul...you are in heaven ... I will never forget your words, your book, your courage and your life.
  • Deeply moving.

    By UlyssesNat
    "When breath becomes air" is a beautifully written narrative of one man's journey through a life well lived, to a sadly inevitable end. A scholarly work, it is nevertheless a book I read in one sitting. It reminds us all that we need to talk about death. It comes to us all sooner or later and remains a taboo subject still. Paul Kalanithi faces his battle with cancer with enormous courage. I loved this book and hope that others will read it and take heart from it on how to confront what we all must face.
  • Stunning

    By Bron duns
    Beautifully written. Intensely sad.