When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air: The ultimate moving life-and-death story

Non-Fiction, Health & Lifestyle
Paperback Published on: 05/01/2017
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Bookseller Reviews

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When Breath Becomes Air
What do you mean you haven't read it?!?!
But seriously! This book nearly had me in tears on the train home and I didn't even cry at Titanic. And not even sad tears really because although it was s... READ MORE
Samantha at Waterstones Falkirk
When Breath Becomes Air
Challenging and awe-inspiring
I knew a little about this book before I started, I knew I was in for an emotional read, but I hadn’t quite anticipated how affecting it would be. Death. ... READ MORE
Alison Heather at Bury St Edmunds Arc Centre
When Breath Becomes Air
Just, WOW.
One of the most life affirming yet heart-breaking books I've ever had the chance to read. Written with such bravery and gentle acceptance of his fate, Pau... READ MORE
Laura at Canterbury
When Breath Becomes Air
I can't stop recommending this to customers!
'When Breath Becomes Air' is not necessarily the kind of book I would normally read, but I'd heard so many glowing reviews and had so many friends recommen... READ MORE
Christie at Edinburgh Ocean Terminal
When Breath Becomes Air
A Beautiful Memoir of Life and Death
As primarily a reader of Fiction, Non-Fiction books, especially memoirs, are not my area of expertise. However, Paul Kalanithi – who sadly passed away duri... READ MORE
Ben at Aylesbury
When Breath Becomes Air
Beautifully Written
The story which is told within the novel is not simply the memoir of a neurosurgeon faced with terminal cancer. It is a story of such importance, not only ... READ MORE
Hannah at York
When Breath Becomes Air
Painful excellence
Terribly easy to read in a short period of time. If 'Do No Harm' was a cold sterile look at surgery, 'When Breath Becomes Air' is a more reflective philoso... READ MORE
Adam at Liverpool
When Breath Becomes Air
A Must Read
I do have to admit that I put off reading this book for so long as I knew that the subject matter would affect me emotionally and I was in a fragile emotio... READ MORE
Stephen B at Darlington
When Breath Becomes Air
Everyone should read this
I do have to admit that I put off reading this book for so long as I knew that the subject matter would affect me emotionally and I was in a fragile emotio... READ MORE
Big Bearded Bookseller


Waterstones Non-fiction Book of the Month for January (2017)

Shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year 2016

Shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2017

Be ready. Be seated. See what courage sounds like. See how brave it is to reveal yourself in this way. But above all, see what it is to still live, to profoundly influence the lives of others after you are gone, by your words – Abraham Verghese, foreword to When Breath Becomes Air

An intimate and exquisitely written meditation on the meaning of life by a young neurosurgeon facing terminal cancer. Dr. Paul Kalanithi wrote When Breath Becomes Air in the last 22 months of his life.

The result is an inspirational account of family, medicine and literature, on publication swiftly finding an audience of booksellers moved by its gradual shift from hope to Kalanithi’s dignified acceptance of life’s end. We strongly recommend the emotional investment to read it.

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade's training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.

One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi's transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity - the brain - and finally into a patient and a new father. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?

Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

  • Publisher: Vintage Publishing
  • ISBN: 9781784701994
  • Number of pages: 256
  • Weight: 181g
  • Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 16 mm

Customer Reviews

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When Breath Becomes Air
A lyrical memoir on the balance of life and death; stunning
In his sixth year into his residency as a neurosurgeon, Paul discovers he has cancer. Paul always dreamt of being both a writer and doctor, and with time m... READ MORE
Lizzie | @littlehux
When Breath Becomes Air
It's very rare that I find a book so additive and mesmerizing. This book written by Paul has to be one of the best book I have ever read. All the descripti... READ MORE
Aaron Stearman
When Breath Becomes Air
When Breath becomes Air
Very well written and and not overly sentimental. This is a man who is phenomally clever (I can't imagine being so utterly driven by my subject, to give so... READ MORE
Sophie Holland
When Breath Becomes Air
A life and its ending
This is the story of a very gifted young man; erudite, intelligent and concerned. Deeply loved and respected by his family and colleagues, revered by his s... READ MORE
Elizabeth Burgess
When Breath Becomes Air
The best book I've ever read.
This may be one of the most thought provoking, life affirming books I have ever read. This makes me want to consider life itself but not taking too much t... READ MORE
Hayley Mcguire
When Breath Becomes Air
A heartbreaking yet also hugely inspirational memoir of a neurosurgeon with incurable cancer
When Paul Kalanithi is diagnosed with incurable cancer he not only views and feels the harrowing diagnosis from a patient's point of view, but from an expe... READ MORE
Page to Stage Reviews (Zarina)
When Breath Becomes Air
Beaufotul novel!!!
I wanted to read spmething different to teen's drama and here it is, this book broke my heart, first book that made me cry! Such a beautiful novel and I wo... READ MORE
Syndia Mosgalik
When Breath Becomes Air
Very philosophical
I was intrigued to read about the experience of a man who had been a successful surgeon becoming a patient with a serious illness. I wasn't expecting the ... READ MORE
Ailsa F
When Breath Becomes Air
Powerful and provoking
REVIEW ORIGINALLY POSTED ON ABOOKORTEN.CO.UK If you’ve been near a bookshop, or even wandered into the books aisle of the supermarket, in the past few yea... READ MORE
Marianne Dugdale
When Breath Becomes Air
An amazing, honest read. I couldn't put this book down.
Shaunagh Cleaver
When Breath Becomes Air
The best book I have ever read!
This book was truly the best book I have ever read. I was gripped throughout and just left speechless by the end. I would and have recommended this book ... READ MORE
Rachael Leacy
When Breath Becomes Air
You have to read it
Breathtaking, tear jerking and emotional. It's about life and relationships, about the hard work and graft and training to be a Dr and go on to be a surge... READ MORE
When Breath Becomes Air
No words can describe how moving this book it absolutely unreal!
Eve  Mcchesney
When Breath Becomes Air
Compelling, heartbreaking, raw and beautifully written
Everyone should read this book. An eloquent and beautifully written perspective on life and death, from someone who lived both sides of this. Paul is an in... READ MORE
Rachel El
When Breath Becomes Air
A Legacy Of Love
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is a powerful work of non-fiction that charts the author’s journey from neurosurgeon to cancer patient. The book ... READ MORE
Julia Wilson
When Breath Becomes Air
A fiercely intelligent man worth of huge admiration for how he fought to keep going in the most demanding profession after a a terrible diagnosis
Caroline B
When Breath Becomes Air
Heart breaking. A modern day masterpiece
Kalanithi’s book was written with such ingenuity and honesty I cried well before the end of the book. Towards the end the book demanded that every letter o... READ MORE
Isabel Fowler
When Breath Becomes Air
Interesting but not great
It is hard to write an average review for someone who has died. However, this factual book did not provide me with any real insight. I am sure, however, ... READ MORE
Antoinette Reboul
When Breath Becomes Air
The new standard for perfect books
After starting this with a physical book and finishing it with an audio book I can confirm that Paul’s words are just as beautiful written on a page as the... READ MORE