Book talks

When Breath Becomes Air

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After incessantly spamming people with this book recommendation, I am writing about the book here in the hope that I can reach out to a few more people and urge them to read this fantastic book.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is a book about life and death, and more importantly, about the meaning of the time between the birth and death. This was not the kind of book I usually pick to read, but when Bill Gates mentions the book as the greatest non-fiction story he has read in a long time, well, I had to read it.

In this memoir, Paul talks about his journey from being a school kid, who was interested in literature, to becoming one of the top neurosurgeons and neuroscientists of the country. It talks about his life as a neurosurgeon, and then as a patient, battling cancer.

What amazed me about him was his thirst for excellence and knowledge. His quest to understand the meaning of life and death had led him to earn degrees in English Literature and Medicine. He talks about how literature and medicine helped him get closer to understanding life’s purpose. The book talks, in good detail, about the punishing professional life of a doctor. It made my respect for the profession and the professionals multiply many folds. Morality and interpersonal relationality are two themes that are discussed in the book, and drives home the message that they are indispensable qualities for living a fulfilling life.

What struck me, at once, when I started reading, was the eloquence and the richness in his writing. It was poetic and made me pause and reread many of the lines, sometimes for absorbing the depth of the words spoken and sometimes for indulging in the pure joy of ingesting well crafted words.

This book will make you appreciate the life you live and the importance of moral righteousness in one’s personal and professional life. This will make you acknowledge the fact that life isn’t always fair but again, that’s the life you’ve got and it’s up to you to make anything out of it.

Thank you, Paul Kalanithi, for writing this gem. This book is a symbol of perseverance, valour and life itself.

Let me end with one of my favourite lines from the book.

You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving. 

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