Books Like When Breath Becomes Air

It’s hard to read When Breath Becomes Air and not be affected by the tragic story of Paul Kalanithi. An up-and-coming neurosurgeon who receives an untimely cancer diagnosis. The book details his struggles with the illness and his personal relationships as he accepts the likelihood of cancer taking his life.

If you are looking for books like When Breath Becomes Air here are 12 books I recommend. I’ve organized them into three  main groups:

Books About Impending Death 

Paul Kalanithi, the author of When Breath Becomes Air, was 36 years old when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. The reality of impending death is well documented in his book. Death focuses our desires and goals on what truly matters in life. Here are books about strong and courageous people who were staring death in the eye.

More Than Love, a Husband’s Tale by Peter B. Forster

The Last Lecture by Jeffrey Zaslow and Randy Pausch

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

Fiction Books About Cancer and Illness

There are many great books of fiction that deal with cancer diagnosis. Some of these books like The Fault in Our Stars and Me Earl and the Dying Girl have been turned into major motion pictures. They are powerful stories about how relationships are affected by terminal cancer. The characters in these books go through major transitions as they see the world through the eyes of illness and death.

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

Me Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Books about Medicine

If you are looking for non-fiction books that discuss the science behind medicine then here are some great books for you. Many of these books are written by doctors and scientists who deal every day with illness and death. Expect to find great insights into the world of medicine, cancer, and life.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

Leave a Comment