When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air

What It’s About

A neurosurgeon, diagnosed with terminal cancer, documents his life, treatment, and reflections on mortality.

Why I Think You’d Like It

This is a book that was so personally moving to me, it’s hard to explain without talking in extremely subjective terms. I’m someone who struggles with ideas about death, especially in the absence of a religious affiliation. It scares me, just like everyone else, and I want to make sense of that fear without resorting to hopeful beliefs I can’t confirm. I want to accept death as best as I can with the knowledge we have.

This book was a positively religious experience for me. It was raw and honest and insightful, and really, genuinely helped me grow in my beliefs about the meaning of life. It is frank without being nihilistic, hopeful without being saccharine, and painful yet still viscerally comforting.

On top of all of that, it is beautifully written. I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for a deeper understanding of life and death.

Content Warnings

A mention of a colleague’s suicide, and some tragic terminal illnesses.

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