"When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi

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Title: When Breath Becomes Air
Author: Paul Kalanithi
Start Date: 12/5/16
End Date: 12/5/16
# of Pages: 256
Edition: Random House 1st edition hardcover (2016)

Favorite Quotes: (1) โ€œIf the unexamined life was not worth living, was the unlived life worth examining?โ€ (2) โ€œโ€˜Birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then itโ€™s night once more.โ€™โ€ (3) โ€œI began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn't know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn't know when. But now I knew acutely. The problem wasn't really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.โ€ (4) โ€œโ€˜I can't go onโ€™, I thought, and immediately, it's antiphon responded, completing Samuel Beckett's seven words, words I have learned long ago as an undergraduate: โ€˜Iโ€™ll go onโ€™.โ€

Why I Chose It: A few different people recommended this book to me over the course of the year. Multiple recommendations from disparate sources is typically a good sign.

Other Notes: A neurosurgeon soberly recounts his medical career in light of terminal cancer diagnosis. And he originally was a lit major and can write very well. Halfway in I wanted to put it down only to make sure I'm making the most of the life. I cried at the end of this, both because of the reality of the story, and Paul Kalanithiโ€™s clear, sober, articulate writing which communicates so well the experience he went through. How often do you read a book written by someone who knows he will likely be gone by the time the book releases? It gives the first person tone an eerie solemness. Read this book.

BooksKarl Magnuson