top of page

When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

In the man-searching-for-meaning classification, this book is truly outstanding thanks to three nuances of Paul Kalanithi, the writer. First, the book was written by a neurogurgeon doctor who encounters deaths every single day. The fact that he was dealing with the highest complexity of illness shapes his indifferent perspective towards the termination of lives. The memoir vividly demonstrated the toughest decisions he made whether to maintain a post-surgeon bed-life for patients or to confront their family, advise them to let the patients die with dignity, and the 18/24 hour-sleeping cycle in the hospital. Second, the book was written by a cancer patient. Yes, Paul died due to brain tumors and later stage IV lung cancer 2 years after diagnosed. I never forget a saying by his wife, Lucy: “What happens to him is tragic, but he is not a tragedy.” True! He persisted in continuing his duty as a neurosurgeon, saving lives despite waves of nausea engulfing him out of the blue any moments. Third, the book is written by a father, husband, and son making his hardest decision of having Cady, his only daughter with his wife though knowing his unknown end of life.

More than anyone else, he acknowledged his unfortunate life but chose to live with dignity. The book torn my heart out at the moment Paul, the man with all respect, reputation and bright future ahead, decided to terminate his life before resting in peace forever.


We might run into calamities and misfortunes at any moments of life since human beings regardless of class, race and power could never run away from death. The book gives me an outstanding representation of optimistic warrior at the most chaotic moments of life, moments of physical and psychological devastation. Thanks to Paul’s story, I start feeling lucky and cherishing any splits of second before getting to know the moment of truth - my deadline, I would say; even knowing it, hopefully, I will treat it with dignity.

Spring 2019

April 19, 2019 at 3:00:00 PM


autobiography, biography


When Breath Becomes Air
bottom of page