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Breathing for a Living: A Memoir

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  227 ratings  ·  31 reviews
A moving account by an extraordinary young woman who mounts a daily struggle with cystic fibrosis in an effort to lead an ordinary life.

Twenty-one-year-old Laura Rothenberg has always tried to live a normal life--even with lungs that betray her, and a sober awareness that she may not live to see her next birthday. Like most people born with cystic fibrosis, the chronic di
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 9th 2004 by Hachette Books (first published July 9th 2003)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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Megan Baxter
Oct 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
I always feel very strange reading this type of book. Like a voyeur, I worry. Wanting to hear about someone else's difficulties with life so I can sit back and sigh and think "wow, that's terrible. Glad I don't have to deal with that!" Illness as entertainment.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Aug 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was so informational & so sad at the same time . The last twenty or so pages made me cry my eyes out . Laura was a very strong girl with a lot of life & so little air . This book made me realize that not a breath should be taken advantage of .
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked this book because it really got at the raw emotions that are felt and thought patterns experienced by many during chronic illness and CF, in particular. While the writing style is unconventional, I thought it was appropriate for the things being expressed.
Eric Diekhans
Nov 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I first heard about Laura Rothenerg from an NPR CD I'd received as a premium many years ago but never played. One day I put it in the car's CD player and listened to Laura tell her story. I must have played the Radio Diaries segment three or four times. This book is a nice continuation of that, and really brings home the challenges of CF. I did long for a little more about her life. (The boyfriend only gets a mention at the end!) and a little less medical jargon, but it was still a moving tale o ...more
Kelly McCarty
Aug 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
I feel guilty about not liking this memoir by a young woman with cystic fibrosis who died at 22, but it isn't good. I'm not sure this material was ever intended to be a book, most of it is just updates on her health sent to friends and family. I have read several other memoirs about illness and dying that were far better. ...more
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating and eye opening autobiography of a young woman with cystic fibrosis facing a lung transplant. Having worked with transplant patients I found it very true to life.
Sep 08, 2012 rated it liked it
I don't know. I really wanted to like this, but I was hoping for a more narrative account of her experiences as a chronic patient. Or what her life was like living with CF to enable me to extrapolate the differences between hers and kids who don't have CF.

She primarily focuses on the time flanking her lung transplant using her diary entries and e-mails from the time. It's clearly the most personal way for us to follow what she's going through, but it was kind of muddled.

Her friends, teachers, c
Nancy Dobson Bennett
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I felt compelled to read this memoir for two reasons: 1) Laura and I share the same birthday, though she was born ten years after me. 2) I've had a couple students with CF, one of whom I still keep in touch with, and I wanted to understand what it is like to live with this horrendous disease. I'm impressed by Laura's honesty and unflinching resolve to be her most honest and true self, even as she endures one awful medical procedure after another. To read a memoir like this, you have to be willin ...more
Jul 12, 2010 added it
This is an autobiography of illness (cystic fibrosis) told by a young woman with the disease, who has since died. One of her doctors was my attending in the MICU this year and encouraged me to read it to understand the experience of someone living with CF. I'll be honest; it was tough to get through the book. I found it hard to sympathize with her reactions to her illness and how she described her interactions with the health staff. But it was good for me to hear her anger, her self-pity, her ma ...more
Gene Figueras
Feb 24, 2015 is currently reading it
I become interested of reading this because of our topic now in our biology subject which is about genetic disorders, and our teacher made us to research 1 genetic disorder. So I surfed the net, and I found different genetic disorders and read about each one of it, and I found cystic fibrosis, and it is different from the others, maybe because the one who had it looks normal but on the inside they were so much suffering, and now our teacher asked as to search about a person who suffer that genet ...more
Izetta Autumn
Jun 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Laura Rothenberg, who passed away months before the publication of her memoirs, due to complications from cystic fibrosis, wrote about her experiences living with CF. A beautiful book, written by an extraordinary young womyn. I keep this at my bedside at all times, the lessons Laura teaches about our society's reactions to illness, differences, and disability are innovative and keen. ...more
Nov 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Health care providers/anyone
Great book, having known Laura, it really captured her essence. I think it should be a mandatory read for any future health care professionals, Laura will school you! She reminds us health care providers how not to be in a witty and palpable sense. She took a lot in stride and really lived her life to the fullest which is chronicled in this book.
Nov 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
What a sad story, told by an incredibly positive and brave young woman. I wish the book had told more of the basics of CF, since I didn't know anything about it. I read a little about it on my own to better understand what Laura is talking about. It's no literary masterpiece, but tells a story that makes you think and puts things in perspective. ...more
Mar 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
FANTASTIC book by a patient living with cystic fibrosis. This is a required reading for pediatric residents at WVU before our infectious disease/CF month. It should be a required read for everyone! It really makes you appreciate life a little more.
Aug 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Touching account of a young girl who dies of CF. Reading it, you feel like Laura is a good friend. I'd also recommend going onto the Radio Dairies website and checking out her dairy, "My so-called lungs." ...more
Oct 04, 2010 rated it liked it
I think I would have liked this book a lot more if I read it when it first came out. Laura and I were the same age and I think I would have appreciated it a bit more. I really loved her candidness about CF and all of her feelings surrounding it.
Mar 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Authored by a beautiful young lady whom I would have liked to have met, this book was very difficult for me to read. I want so much for researchers to eradicate CF so that no one else has to deal with this awful illness.
Holly O'Donnell
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: illness-memoirs
Sep 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gripping autobiography of a young woman living with cystic fibrosis. She died shortly before book was published.
Apr 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Loved it.
Jul 30, 2009 rated it liked it
This book was really sad, and I'll admit, very hard for me to read. Not because it was slow or boring, but because I have lung disease, and this book hit waaaaay too close to home. ...more
Jun 22, 2011 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read this book when I was 'terminal'. It's very inspirational! ...more
Kerry Kenney
Jul 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people that prize talented young writers, someone affected by cystic fibrosis
Shelves: autobiography
I think Laura Rothenburg wanted to live more passionately than any teenager I knew. This book is a tremendous legacy to her. Highly recommend.
Sarah Sammis
Dec 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2004
I still think about this book.
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Interesting memoir, although it does lack context. Read up on cystic fibrosis before reading this, or you'll have trouble understanding some of what's going on. ...more
Colleen Rue
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A terrific book about a couragous girl with cf.
Monabelle Timosa
Feb 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
This is the real deal. How one really lives as a patient unlike most fiction novels. She is a strong and intelligent woman! The best memoir so far!
Bobbie Christ
Oct 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
she has inspired me
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