Sunday Book Club: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Hey there m’lovlies, this week’s Sunday Book Club is written by a dear friend of mine called Mashuda – you can find her blog here.

Mash is incredible in everything she does, real life and online. Her photography skills are enivable so please check out her blog and Instagram! I can’t thank her enough for making time out of her busy schedule to write this post for us to read.


Let’s delve in now. From this point forward any mention of “I” is in relation to Mashuda and her point view.

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is a non fiction autobiographical book published in 2016 and has a rating of 4.32 out of based on 149,768 ratings.

What makes life worth living in the face of death?

As I’ve transitioned between teenage life to young adult life, I find myself reaching for books with more meaning. Don’t get me wrong, everyone likes a fictional escape sometimes. But sometimes I want nothing more than to see the world in a different perspective.

‘When Breath Becomes Air’ gave me that. It was a recommendation from a friend. She literally hyped up the book so much, so, one day, when I was doing an amazon order, it was in my basket and then on my doorstep.

I totally understand the hype.

I think I finished the book within the space of a week and for a final year university student who realistically shouldn’t have a lot of time (although my procrastination skills are award worthy) – that is an achievement. I want to give no spoilers for this book but hopefully by the end of one or two paragraphs, I’ll convince you enough to buy/borrow.

The book follows the life and reflections of Dr Paul Kalanithi who, at the end of his training as a neurosurgeon, finds out he has been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. It’s not very often that you get a perspective from a person who’s facing death in writing. Dr Kalanithi gives us that in such a poetic and profound style of writing. What I loved most was that, it was real. He told us his life story. But it never felt like it was aiming to be inspirational. It wasn’t extrinsically full of fables and lessons. But he wanted us to feel what he was feeling, understand the choices he was making and make us realise that life has meaning and time is short. Even if all he wanted to do was tell his story, he wrote his book in such a way that by the end of it, you are pulling back and looking reflecting on your own life.

Like I said, I didn’t want to give spoilers. I think Dr Kalanithi deserves to tell his own story. So I’m going to end this post with a part of the preface which was written by Abraham Verghese:

“In a world of asynchronous communication, where we are often so buried in our screens, our gaze rooted rectangular objects buzzing in our hands, our attention consumed by ephemera, stop and experience this dialogue with my young, departed colleague, now ageless and extant in memory”


Give it a try. I guarantee you won’t regret it.


One word review: Poetic

Rating: 5/5

8 thoughts on “Sunday Book Club: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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