Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Novels With Nell - When Breath Becomes Air

Happy hump day y'all! I have definitely been using the beginning of this week to knock out tons of work that needs to be done while also attempting to make my bedtime a bit earlier each day. This has made my time spent reading shorter and shorter. Leave it to Nell however, to have me add another book to my list as my time to read seems to get shorter. i would certainly rather have an expansive list than feel like there is nothing out there that I want to read. Nell and I have talked about this suggestion of hers before and it is one that seems like it would serve as a great reminder to take advantage of what is happening in your life now.

I’m questioning whether “Novels with Nell” is an appropriate title for this segment anymore because lately I’ve been on a bit of a nonfiction kick. When Breath Becomes Air is deep. It’s thought-provoking. It’s moving. It made my cry. And I loved it. I received this book as a birthday present, with my grandmother thinking of me due to the medical aspect of the book. (I’m hoping to go to PA school). The author was a young and accomplished neurosurgeon just getting into the “good stuff” of his career when he received a devastating cancer diagnosis. He questions what it is that really matters in life. It made me think, “What would I do if all of a sudden, my life, which I’ve been taking for granted will last (hopefully) at least 60 more years, was shortened to one year left, or two years left, in an instant? What if that happened to a loved one? Do I think what I’m doing now is worth doing? Am I getting caught up in the ultimately meaningless things of life rather than the meaningful? What are my values and does my life reflect them?”

I wasn’t lying when I said it was thought-provoking. As a young adult (as I assume most of you are or are around that age), I don’t think about my mortality on a regular basis. I think it’s better to live in the present rather than spend your life anticipating the future or living in the past. However, this book gave me the pulse check we all need to take every once in a while. Take a step back from your daily tasks, look at the bigger picture of your life, and see what you think of who you are, the person you’re becoming, how you treat people. (Because I really think relationships are the most valuable part of life). Make adjustments if they’re necessary. You don’t want to get to the end and realize you missed out on what really matters.

Dr. Kalanithi passed away before finishing the book, but I think his message is clear and touching. Don’t just take my word for it. See all the accolades it has accumulated below. This is a book that you won’t soon forget.

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • This inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic young neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

The New York Times Book Review • People • NPR • The Washington Post • Slate • Harper’s Bazaar • Esquire • Time Out New York • Publishers Weekly • BookPage

Finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Books for a Better Life Award in Inspirational Memoir

“At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.”

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