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When Breath Becomes Air Hardcover – 16 Dec 2016
|Hardcover, 16 Dec 2016||
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"A vital book about dying. Awe-inspiring and exquisite. Obligatory reading for the living." (Nigella Lawson)
"Rattling. Heartbreaking. Beautiful." (Atul Gawande, author of BEING MORTAL)
"A great, indelible book ... as intimate and illuminating as Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal,” to cite only one recent example of a doctor’s book that has had exceptionally wide appeal ... I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option ... gripping from the start ... None of it is maudlin. Nothing is exaggerated. As he wrote to a friend: “It’s just tragic enough and just imaginable enough.” And just important enough to be unmissable." (New York Times)
"Powerful and poignant." (The Sunday Times)
"Less a memoir than a reflection on life and purpose… [A] vital book." (The Economist)
"Extraordinary…Remarkable… luminous, revelatory memoir about mortality and what makes being alive meaningful ... Lyrical, intimate, insistent and profound. Kalanithi had the mind of the polymath and the ear of a poet." (Heather Hodson Daily Telegraph)
"Powerful and poignant… Elegantly written posthumous memoir… Should be compulsory for anyone who intends to be a doctor… A profound reflection on the meaning of life." (Daisy Goodwin Sunday Times)
"A stark, fascinating, well-written and heroic memoir." (Stefanie Marsh The Times)
"The power of this book lies in its eloquent insistence that we are all confronting our mortality every day, whether we know it or not. The real question we face, Kalanithi writes, is not how long, but rather how, we will live – and the answer does not appear in any medical textbook." (Alice Okeeffe Guardian)
"Exceptional." (Katie Law Evening Standard)
For readers of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal and Henry Marsh’s Do No Harm, an unforgettably powerful and heart-breaking book about how to live.See all Product description
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Paul Kalanithi was the second of three sons of an Indian couple settled in America. He had everything going for him. A comfortable life with family, marrying the love of his life, pursuing a career as special and as advanced as neurosurgery, reputation that could have landed him a plump career as soon as his training ended. But he also had something else too – lung cancer of an advanced stage. All his plans for the future suddenly vanished like mirage. With a life now cut short due to illness, Paul launched deeply into questions of existential nature, questions he had felt even while he was riding the crest of the tide.
This book is the answer to his questions about the meaning and purpose of human life. And, what an eloquent and poetic answer this has turned out to be! Published posthumously, this memoir recounts Paul’s early life in detail, telling us about what led to his decision to pursue a career in neuroscience, his early days as a resident surgeon and his ascent to glory. Then come the details of his illness, the various stages of cure that were tried and his frantic, determined quest to find the meaning for his life, whatever little was left of it. His wife Lucy’s epilogue is as fitting an end to the book as it could have been – beautiful, full of love and written more in a matter of fact manner than in a mawkish tone, just the same way in which Paul had written the whole book.
Life is a continuum and Death is a part of it, whether we like it or not. Death is in fact the only absolute certainty in the lives of everything, from the tiny sapling to the mightiest of stars. Just like the eyes ignore the nose that is in front of them, in order to give us an unhindered view of the world, our minds push that ineluctable reality behind so that we can plot our plans for decades until, of course, Death arrives calling, putting to waste our best-laid plans. The more we contemplate the meaning of our lives, the more we acknowledge what awaits us all in the end, and the more we chart the course of our lives accordingly, the easier it becomes for us to leave our mortal shells behind with dignity. Just the way Paul did.
Going through the book, I was often reminded of Viktor Frankl’s ‘Meaning Triangle’. According to him, a human being can add meaning to his/her life in one of these three ways – by creating something beautiful – a work of art, literature or something else similar, by being a beacon of love, filling the lives of others with love and joyful experiences or, finally, by showing a courageous attitude towards the travails that Life places on one’s path. According to me, Paul has done all the three and has really added a glowing meaning to his beautiful life, no matter however short it had been.
Done reading, I am leaving this book on my shelf, nestled between Viktor Frankl’s magnum opus ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ and Anne Frank’s ‘The Diary of A Young Girl’, because I really feel that this book deserves its place up there!
“If the unexamined life was not worth living, was the unlived life worth examining?"
"Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when.
After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when."
This is a gorgeous book on death and loss and grieving - the subjects we all avoid talking about directly. Paul and Lucy Kalanithi have looked at all these aspects of life in the eye, walked right through them and I believe even come out on the other side. While the book written by Paul seems somewhat incomplete to me, (given that was what actually happened due to his failing health), the epilogue by Lucy (Paul's wife) is the befitting completion to it - making the already whole-hearted book whole.
Words can never be enough to comprehend tragic losses, but in the absence of anything else, words are often the only way. If you are going through immense grief or loss, this book will not help. But maybe it will help make sense of all the helplessness. This book is not about answers. It is also not about questions. It is about looking at the questions bravely and getting to know them well and trying to find your own answers, if at all.
Read it for bravery. Read it if you like pondering over meaning and purpose of life.
[ I bought a hardcover version of the book, it has a brilliantly designed jacket and the binding is great too. I loved the font and line spacing - it is perfect for reading at ease. And so is the size of the book. My only lament is that I had to use the dictionary a lot - to search for all the medical terms that seemed alien to my vocabulary.]
Not many lives are lived like this.
If you want a book to remind you of what a superfluous life most of us live - constantly worrying about earning more, acquiring more, competing more, stressing over meaningless things and so on - do yourself a favour. Be brave and read When Breath Becomes Air.
I promise you - you will start Living more.
It's a rare book. Not to be missed.
Everyone you must read this! This is my 7th copy having gifted it to 6 other people. It is an absolute steal for the price! A hardback for less than 500?! I think I even got a copy for around 250 during a sale here. Buy it, read it, gift it!!!
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