This month's book club choice was a bit different than others. Meghan wanted to pick the book When Breath Becomes Air but knew that it was a heavy book. As a result, she shared the other book that she had debated picking which was Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. As a book club, we decided, for the first time, to read two books. I have already read Eligible (Review here), so my book club post this week will just be on When Breath Becomes Air.
y: Paul Kalanithi
Published Year: 2016
Publisher: Random House
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Summary (Provided by Goodreads):
t the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.
When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.
What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?
Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.
What I thought
When Meghan first shared the summary of this book with us, I immediately knew I wanted to read it. I've been in a bit of a book rut (as you know if you are a reader of this blog) and getting the chance to read something different was just what I needed.
When Breath Becomes Air is written by Paul Kalanithi during his battle with cancer. At the age of 36, Kalanithi is in his final year of residency as a neurosurgeon. He is also diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. This book is his way of sharing his journey to becoming a doctor and then the switch of being a doctor to becoming the patient. Unfortunately, Kalanithi did not beat his battle with cancer and, in fact, didn't have a chance to finish the book (or at least not the way he would have wanted to).
This book is a life changer. It's one of those once in a blue moon books that you read and just feel like you can understand a little bit of life more than you did before. The first part of this book is Kalanithi's journey through medical school and residency to become a neurosurgeon. I have always enjoyed science and found the medical world fascinating, so I was enthralled with all of the information. The second part of the book focuses more on Kalanithi's battle with cancer and all of the treatments and other things he goes through.
Before becoming a surgeon, Kalanithi was an English major and thought that he wanted some sort of job that worked with literature. In writing this book, his talent and passion for literature is so obvious. This book isn't very long but it is completely un-put-downable. There aren't any chapters in this book, but I was so drawn in that I didn't even notice until I was about 85 pages in and ready to go to bed. I decided I would finish the chapter and then put the book down, when I realized that during the past hour that I had been reading, I had not come across any chapters. His writing is that captivating.
Even though it is only January, I know that When Breath Becomes Air is easily going to be one of my favorite books of 2017. I'm definitely going to purchase it (maybe even purchase two copies) and push it off on everyone that I know. It is a heavy story, and you will probably cry, but there is a lightness to it and a positive energy that just makes it so wonderful.
What Book Club Thought
We all agreed that this book is beautifully written and has a wonderful message. The one point that we felt a little different on was our opinions on the readability. One of the book club members listened to the audiobook version instead of reading the book and commented that she was glad she went that route because, while it was beautifully written, there were certain points that she thought might have been unreadable. She specifically referenced some of the more philosophical moments as seeming a bit slow and heavy for her reading tastes. On the other hand, myself and one of the other book club members felt like we couldn't put the book down and never felt as though there were any slow points. We didn't get into any super deep philosophical conversations about it, but I think that we definitel could have if we were in the right mood. I would highly recommend this book.
Next Month's Book Club Pick
The Life Intended By: Kristin Harmel