Book review: "When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi

This book review of "When Breath Becomes Air" written by Paul Kalanithi is by Virgie DeNucci, bookseller at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. This review was originally was published in Steamboat Today.

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By Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9780812988406
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - January 12th, 2016

This is a brief memoir of a life that ended far too early.

Paul Kalanithi, a resident neurosurgeon, has spent the last 10 years of his life supporting his patients’ medical, as well as emotional, needs. Now, Kalanithi finds himself a patient, after being diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.

Death, so familiar to him in his work, is now paying a personal visit, and nothing seems recognizable. Even his identity as a surgeon evaporated in a moment.

The memoir begins with Kalanithi’s self-diagnosis, followed by his reflections about the choice to become a neurosurgeon. Then, Kalanithi describes being a patient and his struggles to live a normal life. The final part of the memoir is written by his wife following his death.

Kalanithi studied literature before becoming a surgeon, so his story reads like poetry.

This memoir, viewing death from two perspectives — that of doctor and of patient — is a somber contemplation of the meaning of death and life. His words are an inspiration.