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when breath becomes air

 30.03.2016

The Bulgarian edition of When breath becomes air is something that a lot of my friends are looking forward to. We won’t be waiting for long. This time I quite like the Bulgarian cover. For those of you who haven’t yet heard about this book, When breath becomes air is the memoir of the neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi. He is no longer among the living, he lost his battle with cancer in 2015. Kalanithi writes When breath becomes air in the last days of his life. He dies before finishing it and the epilogue is written by his wife. Kalanithi is 37 years old at the time of his death.

The book was definitely not what I expected. In most of the reviews, I read that it had made people think about their life. I thought it would be about the meaning of life, and that it would make me appreciate what I have here and now. The book is about death, it’s in every chapter. It really made me think, but about things I haven’t thought before.

Paul Kalanithi’s writing is beautiful and enjoyable. Don’t be fooled by the fact that the author is a doctor. As a teenager, Kalanithi dreams of becoming a writer. He is very interested in the meaning of life and reads looks about it. He decides to become a doctor like his Dad.

The book is divided into two parts. The first one is about his childhood and his patients. This part wasn’t very interesting for me. It’s mainly about the doctor-patient relationship and about the emotions people go through when fighting for their life. If you work with patients, you’ll probably find it interesting.

The second part of the book is about Paul’s battle with cancer. He is faced with a lot hard decisions - whether to continue working, to have a child or not, to continue on his path in life or to spend his last days in a completely different way. The reader starts to ask himself/herself the same questions. You may not agree with Kalanithi. I know that I wouldn’t do the things he does. Before reading the book, I didn’t know these things about myself.

When breath becomes air is a heavy read, but it’s not melodramatic. Depending on your personal story, you’ll experience it in a different way. The book is a memoir, but the focus in not on Paul, it’s on the questions he’s asking himself. He does not tell us a lot about his life. A unique theme in the book is how to die with dignity.

I guess everyone’s experience with this book would be different. These are just my thoughts. When breath becomes air is an interesting book, I haven’t read anything like it before.

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