** When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

I don’t have a good track record of enjoying books about imminent death and I did not swoon with this one either, When Air Becomes Breath, which is the artfully written memoir of a promising neurosurgeon who is told, at age 36, that he has advanced lung cancer and only a few years to live. The shocking diagnosis takes him to the other side of the physician-patient divide, a most uncomfortable place even though his oncologist, a woman, seems just about perfect. The story of the author’s life, from his childhood in rural Arizona to his studies, first in English (so that’s where the artfully written comes from) and then in medicine, and eventually to his wife’s an his difficult decision to have a child immediately post diagnosis, is very interesting, as are the many references to what happens back stage of the operating room. On the other hand, I was turned off by his repeated assertions that neurosurgeons are superior to other physicians (even as his father, brother, and wife are also physicians but not of the #1 kind).


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