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When Breath Becomes Air
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Archive: Other Books > When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi - 5 stars

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message 1: by annapi (last edited Aug 23, 2018 02:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

annapi | 5159 comments At 36, towards the end of his residency as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, cutting short a most promising career. This is his story, his final legacy to the world, the chronicle of his life and how he lived it, his intimate relationship with death as a doctor and also as a patient. It's beautifully written, and profoundly meaningful. Like Atul Gawande's book Being Mortal, I think it should be assigned reading for anyone in the medical profession, and a must-read for anyone seeking meaning in their life.

Though this has been on my TBR for some time, I finally only picked it up when my daughter started reading it because it was one of her assigned reads for her upcoming 3rd year high school English class. Having just finished the book, I find myself at a loss for words to write more for this review, so this will be short - just read it.


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

So sad, I'm not sure I'm ready for this book but it does sound very good. To read the words of a doctor who is dying I am sure is profound when they know so much of life and death. I'm going to add this to my TBR. Good review. I can imagine you were at a loss for words.


message 3: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) Junior High? Why would children that age be assigned to read this?


message 4: by Sushicat (new) - added it

Sushicat | 805 comments I have this on the shelf but still have to work up the courage to read it.


Ellen | 2327 comments This was such a good book in spite of the subject matter. What a gift this man had for facing what was inevitable. Very moving.


message 6: by Jeremiah (new) - added it

Jeremiah Cunningham | 717 comments This one has been on my TBR list. This review makes me want to move it up a few spots.


message 7: by annapi (last edited Aug 23, 2018 02:28PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

annapi | 5159 comments Cheryl wrote: "Junior High? Why would children that age be assigned to read this?"

I never really thought about it till you asked that question, but I don't know and neither does she. I don't mind, because I don't believe in shielding kids from the reality of death as a normal part of life, and 16 is certainly old enough to ponder and discuss mortality and how to find meaning in your life. Most teens will be thinking about this at one point or another in adolescence anyway, and bringing it out in the open with an adult moderating the conversation is a very good idea IMO.

An especially good reason is that teens considering medicine as a career should be exposed to Kalanithi's views on treating patients with compassion, and how to find the balance in medicine between the science of the brain and the humanity of the mind and soul.

My daughter just pointed out to me that "junior high" is in middle school - sorry, my mistake in phrasing! (We don't have middle school in the Philippines, so I never grew up with that phrase.) She will be starting her junior year of high school next week. I will edit the review to reflect that.


message 8: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 8428 comments annapi wrote: "Cheryl wrote: "Junior High? Why would children that age be assigned to read this?"

I never really thought about it till you asked that question, but I don't know and neither does she. I don't mind..."


I agree with you on the not shielding-My daughter is 26 now, but I remember when she was in jr high school and high school, I use to have to sign off on certain reading materials, which I thought was ridiculous-If the school board ok'd and the teacher is teaching it..???? Maybe I am too trusting-LOL


message 9: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) Not saying it isn't appropriate or whatever. Just thought that most 11 or 12 yos wouldn't be able to relate... as a side read, fine, but as *assigned* reading when there are so many other choices that would be more meaningful to them, well, that doesn't make sense to me.

However, if we're actually talking about teens one year from graduation, one year from making decisions that will guide the rest of their lives, I can definitely see how reading someone reflect on their life-cut-short would be relevant.

Maybe the teacher is saying stuff like "think about it... if you were going to die in ten years, would you want to spend that whole time in medical school and internships? But what if you did prioritize starting a family, and didn't get a good job, and don't die, so you spend the next fifty years flipping burgers? What really matters to you now may not be the same thing that matters to you in ten years, or in twenty, or in fifty...."


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