When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

paul kalanithi when breath becomes air

A neurosurgeon’s quest for meaning while living with terminal cancer

When Breath Becomes Air is a Pulitzer Prize finalist that was written by Dr Paul Kalanithi and published posthumously. It is an autobiography of the author’s life and the years surrounding his cancer diagnosis, treatment, and death. In it, he explores the struggles he faced in his quest to become a top neurosurgeon, his personal relationships, and what it felt like to be on the opposite side of the doctor-patient relationship. He also shares his quest to find meaning and purpose in life.


Career as calling – The author reflects on the demands, physical and emotional, that surgeons (especially neurosurgeons) face as they climb their way through medical school and the years of residency afterward.

Search for meaning – Dr Kalanithi traces his search for meaning and purpose in life from his early childhood days through med school and to the very end of his life. He offers a very candid take on how he dealt with those deep, existential questions of life.

Life as a cancer patient – Though he had much experience in interacting with cancer patients and performing countless surgeries to remove cancer, life is very different on the other side of the doctor-patient relationship. These sections of the book are very moving and profound.


This book will tug at your heartstrings. It was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster in sections for me and I know the same will be true for others, especially those who have lost loved ones to cancer. It’s amazing how much a book like this can change your perspective in many areas of life. If you’re up for the journey, this book is a well-needed dose of humanity.

Here is a link to the Wiki page for this book. You can find the book on Amazon here.


Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor Frankl

Does life have meaning, even in the worst situations?

This is the story of Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist, philosopher, and Holocaust survivor. Not only did he survive, but he came away from that unimaginable horror with a profound sense of love, compassion, and significance. He would go on to teach that suffering is a normal part of the human condition. We can’t avoid it. In fact, there are a lot of things that will happen to us that are completely out of our control. But we do have one thing that we can control – how we choose to respond. How you choose to respond is the key to growth. Continue reading “Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor Frankl”