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The New York Times Book Review

People, NPR, The Washington Post, Slate, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Time Out New York, Publishers Weekly, and Book Page all named it one of the best books of the year. It is also a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award in creative nonfiction and the Books for a Better Life Award in inspirational memoir.

On the cusp of finishing ten years of training to become a neurosurgeon at the age of 36, Paul Kalanithi received a stage IV lung cancer diagnosis. He alternated between working as a doctor caring for the terminally ill and being a patient fighting for life. The future he and his wife had envisioned vanished in an instant. When Breath Becomes Air follows Kalanithi’s development from a gullible medical student who was “possessed,” as he put it, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life,” to a Stanford neurosurgeon who works in the brain, the most important location for a person’s identity, and then to a patient and new father who must face his own mortality

When faced with death, what makes life worthwhile? What do you do when the future flattens out into an endless present and is no longer a ladder toward your aspirations in life? What does it mean to foster a new life as one dies off when you have a child? In this extraordinarily compelling and astutely observed book, Kalanithi addresses some of these issues.

While writing this book, Paul Kalanithi passed away in March 2015, yet his words continue to serve as a mentor and a gift to all of us. In a sense, “I came to realize that facing my own mortality had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “I can’t go on.’ These are the seven words from Samuel Beckett that kept repeating in my thoughts. I’ll continue. A talented writer who also served as a doctor, When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, inspirational look at the difficulty of facing death and the bond between a patient and a doctor.

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About Me

An English diarist and naval administrator. I served as administrator of the Royal Navy and Member of Parliament. I had no maritime experience, but I rose to be the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and King James II through patronage, diligence, and my talent for administration.


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