When Breath Becomes Air
Paul Kalanithi

Book cover image

Narrated By: Cassandra Campbell, Sunil Malhotra

Duration: 5 hours and 35 minutes

What to expect


'Finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option...Unmissable' New York Times

At 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.


Memoirs, Neurosciences, Sociology: death & dying, Coping with death & bereavement, History of science

Listen to a sample

Rattling. Heartbreaking. Beautiful.

Atul Gawande, author of BEING MORTAL

A great, indelible book ... as intimate and illuminating as Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal,” to cite only one recent example of a doctor’s book that has had exceptionally wide appeal ... I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option ... gripping from the start ... 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.

New York Times

Less a memoir than a reflection on life and purpose… A vital book.

The Economist

A vital book about dying. Awe-inspiring and exquisite. Obligatory reading for the living.

Nigella Lawson

Powerful and poignant.