Book Review: When Breath Becomes Air



I bought this book and at an actual store, for darn-near full price. All rarities for me these days. 

I had heard about the book’s premise just a few days before and was so intrigued and ready to hop on my next nursing-time read and the library’s waitlist was way too long.

I’m glad I bought it. Really glad I read it. I highly recommend you do the same.

To me now Paul Kalanithi seems like an old friend that I have lost. He wrote this book as he was finishing up medical school to be a neurosurgeon. And while he was dying of lung cancer. It’s a beautiful story about how Paul had prepared his whole life to understand how our bodies, our minds, our relationships and ultimately our deaths were meant to intertwine with one another. He only had 22 months from the time of his diagnosis at such a young age until he passed away. That short amount of time only allowed him to refine the beliefs and knowledge he’s spent his prior years acquiring.

His wife and widow writes the afterward of the book in a beautiful, emotional way. I listened to a few interviews of hers and one of my favorite quotes was something to the effect that she and Paul had both seen so much cancer, so much tragic death that when they got the diagnosis instead of questioning ‘why me’ rather they realized ‘I suppose it’s our turn.”

I’ve thought a lot about this sentiment. Really in life we are all learning to “take turns” just as we teach our children to do with their toys. Sometimes it’s my turn for a wonderful blessing in life. Sometimes I’ll take my turn with a challenging trial. And other times I’ll take my turn celebrating and mourning with others as they take theirs.

Paul was a really great, true man. His book may be about death but it gave me a lot of insight into life.



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