Breath Becomes Air Ladro Book Club

When Breath Becomes Air Ladro Book Club selection

Join us this fall as we read When Breath Becomes Air Ladro Book Club selection, written by neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi.

When Breath Becomes Air Ladro Book ClubThis memoir, published posthumously, is an introspective look at life and what makes it worth living; at work and what work is worth doing; and at death and what makes a good death– if such a thing exists.

“Where there is no place for a scalpel, words are a surgeon’s only tool,” wrote Kalanithi. His words precisely describe his experiences as a motivated medical student, a gifted surgeon and as a patient facing his own mortality. When Breath Becomes Air is both heart-wrenching and life affirming.


Reading either of the below articles by Kalanithi is an excellent preview to When Breath Becomes Air.

“How Long Have I Got?” New York Times

“Before I Go” Stanford Medicine


Watching an interview with Kalanithi about his work and illness is another way to access his story.

Interview with Paul Kalanithi NBC Bay Area

StanMed Podcast: Days are Long; Years are Short


“Part of this book’s tremendous impact comes from . . . the way he conveys what happened to him — passionately working and striving, deferring gratification, waiting to live, learning to die — so well. None of it is maudlin. Nothing is exaggerated. As he wrote to a friend: “It’s just tragic enough and just imaginable enough.” And just important enough to be unmissable.” Janet Maslin, New York Times

Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.” From the Kirkus Review

Should you meet other readers as you enjoy your coffee and the book, here is a discussion guide to begin your conversation.

Purchase When Breath Becomes Air from your local book seller or find it here. Perhaps you’d like to see other books we’ve recommended.

Recommended Posts
pingbacks / trackbacks

Leave a Comment