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Publisher Description

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • This inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic young neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

NAMED ONE OF PASTE’S BEST MEMOIRS OF THE DECADE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • People • NPR • The Washington Post • Slate • Harper’s Bazaar • Time Out New York • Publishers Weekly • BookPage

Finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Books for a Better Life Award in Inspirational Memoir

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

Biographies & Memoirs
Sunil Malhotra
hr min
January 12
Random House Audio

Customer Reviews

keingraham ,

Life meaning revived after brain tumor

I was diagnosed with a 2cm non-cancerous brain tumor in May of 2019 and underwent surgery December 11, 2019 to have it removed. Having been left completely deaf in one ear and with facial weakness (difficulty blinking, smiling, scrunching) on my right side from the surgery, I found myself angry and bitter, wondering why this happened to me. I couldn’t, and still can’t, even cry out of both eyes. Then I found myself angry at myself for feeling that way. I wondered, why can’t I just be grateful? Then I realized I needed perspective. I needed something to remind me of how fortunate I am to not only have had the diagnosis I did, but to have been able to receive the treatment I did and have the results I do (tumor was removed entirely). This book moved me like none other, deepened my profound gratitude for my surgeons, and reminded me of how fortunate I am. I shed many tears throughout yet am so grateful to have come across this.

Catlover_0812 ,

Hard to listen to

The story itself is really good so I think this book would be better if you had the hard copy to read. The narrator of the audiobook reads in such a way that it makes you feel sad. It’s almost robotic and very somber.

Wpulgarin1 ,


Highly recommend this audiobook. The narrator does an amazing job capturing the voice of the book!

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