A Moving Memoir

When Breath Becomes Air

Author: Paul Kalanithi

Genre: Memoir

Pages: 228


What if you went through years of schooling, earned a Masters degree in English Literature, then found your calling to become a physician? Could you fathom enduring 10 more years of classes and medical training? Imagine then having only a single year left in your residency before your career begins, and being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Envision looking back on your life, at 36 years old, and wondering if it was well-spent? If it was meaningful?


Paul figured that starting a family could wait until his medical training was finished. He supposed that a life spent writing novels, a far-fetched dream, could be postponed to his retirement years. It is ironic, although Paul had a passion for writing, he was certain that becoming a surgeon, neuroscientist or even a professor, would touch more lives and was his destined career path. After completing his surgical training, his body riddled with cancer, Paul wrote a book that continues to move millions of people. 

In When Breath Becomes Air, Paul takes you through his journey: childhood, schooling, love, marriage, and his never ending quest to understand where spirituality, science, and the meaning of life intersect.

“I was driven less by achievement than by trying to understand, in earnest: What makes human life meaningful?” (page 30).

Throughout life, and even more so post-diagnosis, Paul is on a carousel of anger, confusion, acceptance, piousness, pride, and wonder.


My Rating:



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  1. Marie

    Beautiful review! I have heard great things about this book from other blogger friends and I’m glad to hear that it had such a powerful impact on you as well. I have read a couple of quotes from it and they stayed with me just as well – I’m hoping to read it someday 🙂

    1. blondevsbooks

      Thank you!! I put a lot of thought into the review, the book deserved it. At only 228 pages in the hardcover edition, it’s amazing the message that he’s able to deliver. I highly recommend!

      Thanks for reading 🙂

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