When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Every once in awhile you come across a book that elevates your thinking and uplifts your soul. When Breath Becomes Air is one such gem.

The author’s last name and the subject that he wrote on lured me to his essay published in NYT last January. Wanting to know more about this prolific writer cum neurosurgeon, I headed to his website and devoured every word he had written or published. Reading Paul’s writings triggers an unquenchable thirst to write. Such is the magnetic pull of his words, that it ignites the spark to write. To paraphrase the author, words outlive us, they have the longevity that we do not. How very true! Sadly, Paul Kalanithi passed away last March after a 22-month battle with lung cancer. Undoubtedly, a monumental loss to mankind.

When Breath Becomes Air is Paul’s life story – it is about his love affair with literature, his quest to find out what makes life meaningful. It is an account of how he became a neurosurgeon, and it gives us a peek into the kind of doctor that he was. It captures the details of his diagnosis and how he and his wife came to terms with it. The deep thinker that he is, he tosses questions in the midst of his narration and makes you pause and reflect. For eg. If an unexamined life is not worth living, is an unlived life worth examining?

Paul’s health deteriorated rapidly before he could complete this book. Following his passing away, his wife, Lucy, takes us through the last days of his life in the Epilogue. The writing is raw, poignant, and a celebration of Paul’s life. The kind that has tears streaming down your cheek as you read line after line with an unexplainable pang piercing through your heart.

By facing death with integrity, Paul Kalanithi inspires us to look within and figure out what we value and what matters most to us. Because those are the things that constitute a meaningful life.

Don’t miss out on this book. Own it, if you can!

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