Summary: #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
– For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decades 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…Read more.
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Paul Kalanithi: When Breath Becomes Air Audio Book Summary
When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir written by Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon. Kalanithi began work on the book shortly after his diagnosis with terminal lung cancer. The book was published in 2016; Kalanithi passed away before its release.
When Dr. Kalanithi was diagnosed with cancer, he had just completed almost a decade’s worth of training as a surgeon. He was only 36 at the time of his diagnosis, and he and his wife still believed that they had their entire lives ahead of them. The diagnosis put an immediate end to their dreams for the future.
Kalanithi tried to use humor to distract from the fact that he was dying. He sent one of his friends an email in which he joked that he had already outlived a number of famous authors. The only difference between them and him is that he had yet to write anything.
From that point on, Dr. Kalanithi worked to chronicle his fascinating life. He talks about the way he postponed a lot of important things in order to pursue his career. He assumed that there would be plenty of time to learn how to live once he finished his training. Tragically, after his training was complete, Kalanithi had to prepare for his own death.
Although Dr. Kalanithi was not an experienced writer when he began the book, his writing is strong and compelling. He was fascinated by literature, and that interest is reflected in his writing.
The title of the book comes from a poem, Caelica 83. The poem is part of a sonnet series that was written by Fulke Greville in the 17th century. While Kalanithi greatly enjoyed this poem, it was not his most beloved book; that title belongs to Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici.
Although Dr. Kalanithi had a background in medicine, he had also studied literature at a higher level. In fact, he obtained two B.A.s in literature from Stanford, as well as a M.A. in literature from Cambridge. He was also able to graduate cum laude from the prestigious Yale School of Medicine. He was about to complete a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience and Stanford when he was diagnosed.
The book initially focuses on anecdotes from Dr. Kalanithi’s life as a student. He focuses a lot of attention on his time as a medical resident. Although he is a workaholic, it is easy for him to connect with his students.
Once Kalanithi is diagnosed, the book focuses on his personal turmoil. He had always focused on long-term plans, but now that is impossible. He and his wife ultimately decide to have a child before his death, who they name Cady. The book is dedicated to her.
A lot of people have felt overwhelmed by emotion when reading this book. Dr. Kalanithi was a very likable man and a very talented writer. Though few people have his passion for education, a lot of people are able to relate to him. When people start the book, they know he did not survive his ordeal. At times, the book can be painful, but it is certainly worth reading.