When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d heard a lot about this book since its release but I never really had the time to pick it up. So I decided to listen to the audio book instead. This was going to be my very first one and I was very excited. I had no idea that it would totally change me though.

Narration by Sunil Malhotra
Listening to this book became difficult. The narration was so well done that I could feel all his emotions through every word he spoke. I couldn’t take it anymore after a couple of pages. It was just way too much for my poor heart to handle. I then decided to switch to the e-book and finish reading the story.

The Issues

I had only one issue with this book – the foreword by Abraham Verghese. There were some instances where he would say something and then totally contradict it later on. I didn’t see the point of his foreword tbh. In my opinion, Lucy Kalanithi would have done a way better job on this part had she been given the chance to write it instead.

The Good Stuff

1. I loved all the med references throughout the book. As a doctor, I thought these were the most interesting bits. I felt like I was reliving med school all over again and it gave me great joy. The book highlighted the fact that there are major differences between theoretical medicine and practical medicine. What we study is not what we end up doing, and all the theoretical knowledge on Earth does very little to calm the nerves of a new doctor facing a real-life crisis in the ER.
2. Losing your first patient sucks. The gut-wrenching sadness you feel when someone under your care passes away is very hard to handle. This is usually the death that strips new doctors of emotions later on. The more fatalities you see before you, the more they stop affecting you. It sucks but it’s necessary so we can move on and care for another. I liked that the book shed some light on doctors’ emotions and what it feels like for them to lose people on a daily basis.
3. The epilogue by Lucy Kalanithi was my favorite part of the book. It was just so good, and her last sentence, “I was his wife and a witness”, sent a shiver down my spine. I cannot even begin to comprehend what she might have felt while writing this part. I was fine for most of the book but this epilogue broke me.


Random thoughts:

• Fun fact – We do feel totally normal when slicing through cadavers after the first time.


• When Paul mentioned that an ECG looked like hieroglyphics, I wished I was there to give him a high five! I totally feel that way every time I look at one.
• Paul Kalanithi wrote, “What better way to understand death than to live it?”. A terminal illness for someone who always wanted to understand death was just too tragic to read about.

Overall impression:
I really liked this book! If you haven’t read it already, you should definitely pick it up. Any readers studying / working in healthcare and medicine may find it very interesting due to its high medical content.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Aali Hashim says:

    Loved this book so much. Must be so much better for you since you can relate. Have you ever lost a patient??


    1. Yeah, I lost a few 😦


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