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“When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air is Paul Kalanithi’s memoir about facing a terminal disease. In it, he provides an honest and thought-provoking account of his complex relationship with mortality.

The book is an emotionally charged read that offers insight into the difficult decisions he makes before he passes away.

Plot Summary

When Breath Becomes Air tells the story of Paul Kalanithi, a brilliant young neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

The book starts with his diagnosis and follows through his struggle to balance hope with understanding, as he faces his mortality. He reflects on his life, remembering both his past and his future, which he now knows he won’t get to experience.

The book also reflects on the decisions he must make and the relationships he forms as he comes to terms with his mortality.


When Breath Becomes Air explores themes of mortality, choice, and resilience. Paul Kalanithi’s journey shows readers how to come to terms with the difficult choices he must make.

He finds strength and beauty in life, despite facing his mortality. The memoir is ultimately one of courage and hope, and serves as an inspiration for readers to find courage in the face of adversity.

Writing Style

The writing style of When Breath Becomes Air is eloquent yet raw. Kalanithi’s prose is poetic and easy to read, and it captures the powerful emotions he experiences in the face of his mortality.

His direct and honest voice makes it easy for readers to connect to his story and feel his emotions.

Final Thoughts

When Breath Becomes Air is heartbreaking and thought-provoking. It is a powerful reminder that life is filled with difficult choices and experiences.

Despite the sadness, the memoir offers readers hope and courage to find strength in the face of adversity.

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