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When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

Faced with terminal illness, a young neurosurgeon is forced to revaluate his future as becomes both doctor and patient



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The Bottom Line

What makes life worth living in the face of death? A question no one should have to answer, especially not at age 36, with a young wife and a burgeoning medical career as a Stanford, Yale and Cambridge-educated neurosurgeon. Paul Kalanithi’s memoir, told through the opposing lenses of doctor and patient, is both breathtaking and heartbreaking in its clarity and courage in starting down our inescapable mortality.

I. A Passion for Literature and Science

Paul Kalanithi was an exceptional student, driven by a love of language and literature and a curiosity about human physiology. He graduated from Stanford University with a dual major in English and biology. Ultimately, his quest to understand the meaning of life through science (rather than literature) drew him to medicine. He completed medical school at Yale University and became a neurosurgeon, believing the specialty would enable him to better understand how the brain creates meaning from life. Kalanithi moved his goal of becoming a writer to the back of his mind, planning to return to it later in life.

II. God Laughs at the Plans We Make

III. A Good Life Means a Good Death

IV. Joy Lives Beside Sorrow

V. Tragedy Can Strip our Lives of Nonessentials

VI. A Meaningful Death

The Takeaway

COMPLETE INSIGHT

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