Book Review: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Title: When Breath Becomes Air
Author: Paul Kalanithi
My Rating: ♥♥♥

You know, iWhen Breath Becomes Airf this wasn’t such a tragic and moving story in and of itself, I would probably have given this book two stars. But I feel like I should give the author a break since he was terminally ill and he actually passed away while he was still writing the book. I feel kind of bad giving it only 3 stars.

Look, it’s a sad and moving story. Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon, is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at the age of 36. That’s only a couple of years older than me. But, in my opinion, there was something missing in his telling of his story. I have read some reviews describing the writing as “poetic” and “moving” but, to be honest, I felt that it was quite dry and clinical. It felt to me more like a text book than it should have.

I found that the most moving parts of the book were the foreword by Abraham Verghese and the epilogue by the author’s wife. In the middle were stories and anecdotes, mostly from the author’s experiences as a neurosurgical resident in the hospital. How hard he worked and the passion he said he felt for his work.

I think maybe I was ready and prepared for a different kind of book. I thought I would be learning about how a neurosurgeon would have a unique perspective on life when his own was ending at such a young age. And I guess that was delivered, but it was a bit too dry and factful for my liking.