Why does When Breath Becomes Air succeed where so many other books fail or, at best, only come close? Using memoir format to offer useful lessons on life, author Dr. Paul Kalanithi had the exceedingly rare combination of all the following:
- a masters in literature and a lifetime of reading
- the training and experiences of a neurosurgeon
- a life-threatening illness, with a slim chance of long-term survival
- the gift of his own brilliant writing
- a passion to understand the connection between physiology and meaning in life
Kalanithi's deft writing enables readers to experience vicariously what it is like to face a life-threatening illness. That emotional roller coaster ride is not for entertainment. It's the best vehicle for explaining what he learned about living well in an uncertain world. Courageously and generously using his waning energies, Kalanithi searched for--and found---words that convey the essence of complex ideas, without oversimplifying.
In future posts, I'll focus on some of his specific insights on living life most fully, in sickness and in health. They are profound and practical lessons on Healthy Survivorship.