When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
Non-fiction book finished: 23rd July
‘When Breath Becomes Air’ is a non fiction autobiography written by Paul Kalanithi in his final year of residency of neurological surgery when he is diagnosed with stage-4 non-small-cell EGFR-positive lung cancer. The book carries an urgency of racing against time and having important things to say, where Paul accepts no pity and leaves no detail untouched.
In the book, Paul often refers to and approaches the idea and contrast between life and death. This theme is prominent throughout the book, taking place in quotes, experiences and stories. From working as a neurosurgeon, Paul confronts death more often than most, but he also encounters life in a way different from everyone else, he was constantly consumed with stories and experiences of his own about the living and the dying. He was involved in births, medical breakthroughs and people overcoming the most traumatic of injuries and illnesses. Death also takes many forms in the memoir of When Breath Becomes Air. From cadavers in anatomy class, premature twins that didn’t make it and eventually Paul’s experience of his very own – tumours infesting his very own lungs and organs. Paul shares with the reader many of his philosophical insights towards working as a doctor, being sick and the fine line between the living and the dying. One quote that stood out to me in the book, was when Paul said: “Even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.” This quote
… Paul is completely upfront with the reader throughout the entire content and leaves no detail untouched and no part of his journey left out. This gives
relate to having mental strength
At the conclusion of Part 1 of the book, when Paul first takes time off of work to get treatment, he receives a phone call from fellow resident Victoria. She tells Paul that one of his closest friends and colleague Jeff had committed suicide due to one of his patients dying from a difficult complication. “…Jeff and I had trained for years to actively engage with death, to grapple with it, and, in so doing, to confront the meaning of a life.” Paul opens up in this quote about his friend’s death, demonstrating that the life of a doctor can end tragically without the mental strength to endure constant death and changing around them.
– find a quote that relates to life and death in his work life then continue on about his illness and a quote for that.
This theme relates to… This theme connects to my personal experiences…
What does the book teach us about society and the world we live in…
I would recommend this book to year 12 students because… Paul, as a patient and a doctor, managed to confront death, examine it, adapt to it and accept it… Paul’s book was published posthumously…