When Breath Becomes Air was published in 2016 and quickly became a New York Times #1 best seller as well as a Pulitzer Prize finalist. And let me tell you those honors are well deserved.
Dr. Paul Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was young, he didn't smoke or live around those who did. He was 36. It was a very rare diagnosis. As he states in the book, "One has a very different relationship with statistics when one becomes one".
Despite being written by a doctor, the book isn't clinical or strictly scientific. There's science in it yes, but it's more about his switch from doctor to patient and all the emotions that come with it. He talks about how people rallied around him. The ups and downs of his disease. But he also shares how amidst all this, he tries to live normally. He tells of the birth of his daughter, spending time with family, and even the struggle of working.
It's hard to find words to describe the book because it's such a thought provoking and beautifully written work. It leaves you pondering about life. The feeling you get from reading Dr Kalanthi's work won't leave you. I read this book two years ago and it is still one of my go to nonfiction recommendations. Even though it deals with serious and heavy subjects, the book still left me hopeful. I know it's a book that I will pick up again and again.
This book will make you cry. Especially the epilogue by Lucy, his wife. Although Paul died, Lucy says,
"… [W]e knew that one trick to managing a terminal illness is to be deeply in love-to be vulnerable, kind, generous, grateful."
"I expected to feel only empty and heartbroken after Paul died. It never occurred to me that you could love someone the same way after he was gone, that I would continue to feel such love and gratitude alongside the terrible sorrow, the grief so heavy that at times I shiver and moan under the weight of it."
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you. It's not a fast paced thriller or romantic comedy. But a thoughtful and beautiful book. It's short and impactful. I love it!