Last night, I read When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi’s observation of a young and promising life — his own — cut short by cancer.
Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist who also had a degree in English literature, was completing his last year of residency at Stanford when he got the diagnosis. He died at 37 in March 2015, having spent the final year of his life writing a moving memoir capped exquisitely by an epilogue from Lucy Kalanithi, who describes herself as “his wife and a witness.”
The book is powerful in an enduring way, but as I climbed the stairs to my bedroom, I could feel its discrete and immediate gift: Kalanithi’s story had lifted me from my own, which has recently featured a kind of enervated fretfulness, circular and deadening, a not-quite-worry that breeds insomnia. A turning over and over of thoughts too familiar and not particularly happy.
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