I discovered When Breath Becomes Air through Cup of Jo. It is a memoir written by Dr. Paul Kalanithi (Joanna's brother-in-law). He was a gifted doctor diagnosed with cancer. His writing is beautiful! It flows like poetry. When breath becomes air isn't a depressing, dying of cancer memoir, it's the story of a man's search for a meaningful life and death. Paul's writing flows so beautifully. I expected to be a lot sadder whilst reading but it isn't a woe-is-me tale. The first half is about his life, education and goals. He was a gifted Doctor that clearly would have made a huge impact in his field.
Around page 180 it sets in, he's really sick, and then a few short pages later his daughter is born and I cried and there's hope, joy and all the overwhelming feelings that come with a new baby. Then I remember this isn't fiction and I already know the ending.
This book is so eloquent, profoundly honest and thought provoking. It reads like a wonderful piece of fiction without exaggeration. I read it quickly, under 24 hours and I'm a slow reader. The pages flew by and without realizing, I was nearly finished.
He may not have lived long enough to have made a huge impact on the scientific world, but his book certainly will help many beyond those that may have needed his help as a doctor. Throughout the book he is so relatable even if you aren't a doctor. He is brave and matter of fact as perhaps only a doctor faced with a terminal illness can be.
Not once during when breath becomes air was I bored, no yawning here. I couldn't get enough. In the moments I wasn't reading, I wanted to be. Had this been fiction, I would have said "No way, it can't end like this!" So it goes.
The foreword and epilogue are equally beautiful. The epilogue Lucy Kalanithi, Paul's wife, also a Doctor, is just a beautiful as the rest of the book. You wouldn't know that both the Kalanithi's weren't writers by trade. Her words are heartbreaking, thought evoking and evidently loving. The epilogue was the hardest part to read, she bore witness, and writes about bringing the book to life. I can't imagine how hard that would be, how strong she is.
Here's the New York Times review, this book hasn't even been out for a week and already has nearly 100 glowing reviews. If you read only one book this year, make it When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.