When Breath Becomes Air
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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is the collection of reflections of a neurosurgeon who has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Something less than a memoir, it is Kalanithi's coming-to-terms with his own mortality, legacy, and philosophy of life and death. He views death not as something to be avoided at all costs, but simply another part of life.

Although Kalanithi's writing is good, his story compelling and heart-breaking, and the book highly recommended, I found that I didn't like it as much as I had expected. For one thing, his hubris as a neurosurgeon - he talks several times of making the decision whether a person's life is worthy of fighting for - was off-putting. Although I agree that extraordinary measures should not always be taken to prolong life, and that the acceptance of one's own death is a courageous act, he seemed to lack the humility that I would hope for in someone who routinely took others' lives into his hands. And although he certainly has uncommon courage in accepting his limitations and in living a meaningful life in the face of terminal illness, but I would stop short of calling it heroic courage.

His wife's epilogue, however, was breathtaking. Simply written, from what was clearly a devoted and loving spouse, her account of his final days and his legacy was by far the most moving part of the book. Maybe because I prize humility above almost all other virtues, it was lovely to hear her words of praise for her husband, while his own account of his life and accomplishments fell flat.