When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi. Random, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8129-8840-6
Author and physician Kalanithi had nearly completed his residency in neurosurgery at Stanford when he was diagnosed with Stage lV lung cancer at the age of 36. Despite the stubborn progression of his disease, Kalanithi was able to write, work, and delve into a number of profound issues before the end of his life, documented here (his wife provides the epilogue). As a youth in Arizona, Kalanithi was unsure whether he wanted to pursue medicine, as his father did, or if literature and writing were his calling. This inspiring memoir makes it clear that he excelled at both. Kalanithi shares his career struggles, bringing readers into his studies at Yale (including cadaver dissection), the relentless demands of neurosurgery, and the life-and-death decisions and medical puzzles that must be solved. After he begins cancer treatment, Kalanithi strives to define his dual role as physician and patient, and he weighs in on such topics as what makes life meaningful and how one determines what is most important when little time is left. He also shares the challenges of colleagues: an oncologist who walks a tightrope between hope and honest reality; a fellow doctor who commits suicide after losing a patient; Kalanithi’s wife, also a doctor, bearing witness to her husband’s decline even as she gives birth to their child. This deeply moving memoir reveals how much can be achieved through service and gratitude when a life is courageously and resiliently lived. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/02/2015
Release date: 01/12/2016
Compact Disc - 978-0-399-56618-9
Compact Disc - 978-0-399-56616-5
Hardcover - 209 pages - 978-1-4104-8785-8
Compact Disc - 978-1-5247-0814-6
Paperback - 284 pages - 978-957-13-6728-6
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