amateur book review: When Breath Becomes Air

So I read the book When Breath Becomes Air. More accurately, I checked it out on Overdrive and listened to it while driving, at work, and on walks.

Overall, I liked it. But here’s the bad and the good:

The Bad

  • He was slightly pretentious. I mean, you could go on Goodreads and find people who found him REALLY pretentious, and I can’t say I blame them. I think that sounding pretentious is a side effect of getting into philosophy. When you want to think about what makes life meaningful, you turn to a lot of sources: literature, religion, philosophy, poetry, and other people’s experiences and opinions, and eventually apply them to your own. And it can be mind-blowing, but you’re also insufferable as hell.
  • It got a little dry at times. I was pretty sick of his details about medical procedures. Of course, I’m also a very impatient person and so while those details may be fascinating to other people, it’s filler for me.

The Good

  • It’s funny – I felt like he was pretentious, but I also loved it when he talked about his journey to find meaning. I related hardcore to his desires to move beyond theory, beyond armchair philosophy – to experience life and to develop meaningful relationships with people. I am all about that life. I prefer experiences over books – I even get disappointed reading Harry Potter, knowing I can’t live in that world. But books will have to do.
  • His perspective is very unique. I rarely read books from the perspective of the person dying, and I was especially fascinated by his thoughts on how he went through the five stages of grief – but in reverse. It feels strange to call him “lucky,” but he’s lucky that he lived long enough to write this book, to patch up his relationship with his wife, to have a baby, and to tie up loose ends. Is it better to live a long time with a debilitating disease but have a chance to say goodbye to the ones you love, or to just die suddenly?
  • The epilogue was, by far, the best part of the WHOLE book. It was written by his wife, who detailed his – uh, spoiler alert – death and what it was like for her, his family, and the aftermath. Her part moved me especially because she writes from the perspective of most people: the ones left behind. Most of us experience that kind of death: we’re the ones who watch our loved ones suffer, watch them leave us, reevaluate our lives, pick up the pieces, and carry them with us in our grief. And I think that’s what makes the book especially remarkable.

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