When Breath Becomes Air Audiobook Summary
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • This inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic young neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?
NAMED ONE OF PASTE’S BEST MEMOIRS OF THE DECADE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • People • NPR • The Washington Post • Slate • Harper’s Bazaar • Time Out New York • Publishers Weekly • BookPage
Finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Books for a Better Life Award in Inspirational Memoir
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.
What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.
Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.
When Breath Becomes Air Audiobook Reviews
Dr. Kübler-Ross defined five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It was a compassionate system intended to help patients and their families process a terminal diagnosis. I would add regret to that list. Regret for the life you wanted, but will not have. Regret for the people you will not know and love, the places you will not go, and things you will not accomplish. Many of us don’t have to be in the process of dying in order to feel that level of grief. The urgency of now is more acute, however, with a death sentence looming on your scorecard.
Author Paul Kalanithi is a young man of 36 years when he is diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer. He had spent almost his entire life studying – first obtaining degrees in English Literature and Human Biology, then earning master degrees in both English and Philosophy, before finally deciding on medical school. His illness interrupts a life right on the cusp of realizing his hard-earned ambition to become a neurosurgeon. He channels his profound grief – and regret – into action, capturing his hopes, dreams, and aspirations into this book.
Kalanithi’s writing reminds me of British surgeon Henry Marsh, who wrote so eloquently about the intersection of life and medicine in his latest book, “ Admissions .” Like Kalanithi, Marsh’s studies were on a more humanistic path before he decided on the scientific one of neurosurgery. Like Marsh, Kalanithi’s brings lyrical discipline to the story of his life. He offers his observations on life, relationships, family, career, his illness and pending death, in an achingly poetic way. He completes his circle of life in the writing of this book. I wept when I finished his story.
Jacqueline Onassis is credited with saying that you haven’t lived until you’ve written a book. In writing his, Dr. Paul Kalanithi lives forever.
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