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2017 Common Literature Experience

How We Got to Now Cover

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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 making a living treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. 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 young neurosurgeon at Stanford, guiding patients toward a deeper understanding of death and illness, and finally into a patient and a new father to a baby girl, confronting his own mortality.


Thursday, August 24, 2017 - 9:00 a.m.
Dee Glen Smith Spectrum - Utah State University Logan Campus
Broadcast simultaneously at
Speaker: Dr. Lucy Kalanithi
Free and open to the public.

Literature Assignment

If you are a student in the 2017 University Connections class, the literature assignment can be found at /connections/literatureexperience/assignment/.

Be sure to check out our previous literature selections.


Additional Information

Interview with Dr. Lucy Kalanithi: The Commonwealth Club of California
Author's Website Interview with Dr. Lucy Kalanithi: Charlie Rose Dr. Lucy Kalanithi: TED Med Interview with Dr. Lucy Kalanithi: Medscape Interview with Dr. Lucy Kalanithi: Talks at Google New York Times: My Marriage Didn't End When I Became a Widow, by Dr. Lucy Kalanithi