Read this essential, life- affirming book
“THE fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”
They say we begin dying the moment we take our first breaths, but most of us live as if each breath is a given, and the fact of death is something unimaginably foreign.
With degrees in Biology and English and two Masters in Literature and Philosophy already under his belt, 35- year- old Dr Paul Kalanithi was almost at the culmination of decades of education and training and just months away from his goal of becoming a surgeon- scientist and professor of neurosurgery.
He was, like most people, waiting for the point when life as he imagined it would finally begin.
Little did he imagine that on the cusp of the fulfilment of his dreams, life would hand him the greatest challenge of all: terminal cancer.
Battling rapidly deteriorating health, Dr Kalanithi grappled with a need to make sense of his life.
Cancer forced him take a step back, and as is the wont of those whose days are suddenly numbered, he began to ask himself: Is life worth living if it is a life full of suffering? Where is the line when science must give way to faith? What is the meaning of life when it is so finite, so infinitesimal, and death so ruthless and indiscriminate?
When Breath Becomes Air
chronicles his personal ruminations and thoughts as he raced against time and debilitating illness to complete his gruelling surgical training, become a father, and write the book he’d always dreamt of writing.
Dr Kalanithi’s writing is breath- takingly honest and courageous, a quietly moving tour- de- force that will bring you to a deep appreciation of the paradox of life: how only in the face of death do we find value and respect for the here and now.
Reading his memoir is like hearing the voice of a very great and wise man, teaching us to live life with hope, love, the pursuit of excellence, courage and gratitude, the way only a dying man can.
I recommend this book if you enjoy reads that move, engage, enlighten and inspire you.
If philosophy interests you, read this book for a lively and intelligent exploration of the conundrums of human mortality and existentialism.
Doctors and lovers of science and medicine will find much for them in Dr Kalanithi’s accounts of his medical training and practice, and the role of doctors who hold life and death in their hands on a daily basis.
And everyone who breathes will appreciate his witty, wise, oh- so- poignant story, an essential, life- affirming reminder that each day, each person, each breath, is something we need to treasure.
Dr Kalanithi died on March 9, 2015, leaving behind wife Lucy and new daughter Cady.
And this wonderful book, which Lucy finished by adding what happened after he had penned his last words, and that she saw released last month.