100 books like When Breath Becomes Air

By Paul Kalanithi,

Here are 100 books that When Breath Becomes Air fans have personally recommended if you like When Breath Becomes Air. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Man’s Search for Meaning

Michael Gervais Author Of The First Rule of Mastery: Stop Worrying about What People Think of You

From my list on illuminating the path towards mastery.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a performance psychologist, I’ve spent my career supporting high-performers on their path toward mastery. I founded Finding Mastery, a high-performance psychology consulting agency. Our primary focus is helping leaders, teams, and organizations solve the most dynamic and complex human performance challenges.

Michael's book list on illuminating the path towards mastery

Michael Gervais Why did Michael love this book?

Frankl’s concept of finding meaning in suffering and the idea that our primary drive in life is not pleasure but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful deeply resonates with me.

The book underscores the belief that even in the most difficult of circumstances, we have the freedom to choose our attitudes and responses, a concept that is central to high-performance psychology.

By Viktor Frankl,

Why should I read it?

41 authors picked Man’s Search for Meaning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the outstanding classics to emerge from the Holocaust, Man's Search for Meaning is Viktor Frankl's story of his struggle for survival in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. Today, this remarkable tribute to hope offers us an avenue to finding greater meaning and purpose in our own lives.

Book cover of Endurance

Edward Benzel Author Of Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon

From my list on awakening of the strengths that are hidden deep inside each of us.

Why am I passionate about this?

Coming from the perspective of a neurosurgeon, I have witnessed many successes and failures over more than four decades. I recognized decades ago that communication with patients at a level that involves emotions is a necessary part of being a complete physician. This involves being empathetic and, henceforth, digging deep to find the strength to be transparent, vulnerable, compassionate, understanding, and, when needed, forceful (some would call this paternalism). Although the five books I have chosen to highlight vary widely in content, they have one common theme – finding within us the will and wherewithal to succeed.

Edward's book list on awakening of the strengths that are hidden deep inside each of us

Edward Benzel Why did Edward love this book?

I loved this book because it told a gripping story of courage, mistakes, and survival against huge odds. It tells the story of a failed mission that most often would have led to disaster—but instead, it led to the awakening of strengths that Shackleton and his team harbored deep inside each of them.

Through this book, I saw and felt the need to reach deep inside to find the will to survive. It helped me understand just what it takes to be successful and how to overcome failure (failed mission).

Plain and simple, this book provided me with incredible insight into what it takes to ultimately be successful.

By Alfred Lansing,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Endurance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In August 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance and set sail for Antarctica, where he planned to cross the last uncharted continent on foot. In January 1915, after battling its way through a thousand miles of pack ice and only a day's sail short of its destination, the Endurance became locked in an island of ice. Thus began the legendary ordeal of Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men. For ten months the ice-moored Endurance drifted northwest before it was finally crushed between two ice floes. With no options left, Shackleton and a skeleton crew attempted a near-impossible…

Book cover of The House of God

Cassandra Arnold Author Of Beyond Borders: Reflections from the Humanitarian Frontline

From my list on becoming the doctor your patients need you to be.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a doctor who is lucky enough to have worked in many countries with many people. I wanted to do this ever since I read Albert Sweitzer’s biography when I was about thirteen. I enrolled in medicine as a single parent in my thirties, then built up experience in emergency departments, pediatrics, obstetrics, remote area locum work, and a year in a hospice before beginning my career overseas. Being a doctor was, at one and the same time, exhilarating and terrifying, heartbreaking and absolutely filled with joy. The more I was able to connect to my patients, the more I loved every moment of my work. I hope the books on this list will give that same gift to you.

Cassandra's book list on becoming the doctor your patients need you to be

Cassandra Arnold Why did Cassandra love this book?

Reading this novel as a junior doctor was like eating chocolate-coated, barbed wire. I was shocked, appalled, and outraged. I laughed. I cried. I wanted to stop and throw it away across the room. And yet, I remember it decades later. A book I will never forget.

Since then, there have been blogs and websites and many more recent similar stories of life as a recent graduate, but this one covers the same message that I needed so much. It is about caring as much as diagnosis. Being a doctor means relating to people first and illness second.

By Samuel Shem,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The House of God as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By turns heartbreaking, hilarious, and utterly human, The House of God is a mesmerizing and provocative novel about what it really takes to become a doctor.

"The raunchy, troubling, and hilarious novel that turned into a cult phenomenon. Singularly compelling...brutally honest."-The New York Times

Struggling with grueling hours and sudden life-and-death responsibilities, Basch and his colleagues, under the leadership of their rule-breaking senior resident known only as the Fat Man, must learn not only how to be fine doctors but, eventually, good human beings.

A phenomenon ever since it was published, The House of God was the first unvarnished, unglorified,…

Book cover of Cutting for Stone

Carl F. Nathan Author Of An Arrow's ARC: Journey of a Physician-Scientist

From my list on a life in science or medicine.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up, I experienced “otherness.” My family was hard up amidst affluence. Typecast as Jewish, where that was a rarity, we were met with suspicion and unease. Being a woman held my mother back from her preferred profession. Racism was rampant; my growing appreciation of it and efforts to intervene added to “otherness.”  My childhood was shadowed by illness, including my mother’s cancer. These influences drew me to medicine and science. Both are a way to overcome “otherness” and to protect one’s family, even as my sense of family expanded. Medicine forges extraordinary bonds between doctor and patient. Science brings people together from diverse backgrounds to share goals. These connections make meaningful stories. 

Carl's book list on a life in science or medicine

Carl F. Nathan Why did Carl love this book?

This riveting novel by an infectious disease physician demonstrates how something as seemingly stereotypic as a medical career can be profoundly shaped by circumstance, accident, location, and political events, as well as by family and personality.

The practice of surgery—be it closing a wound or removing a lesion—can be both of those things for the emotions of the person performing it. There is an analogous message for other fields of medicine—practice and practitioner become interrelated at a deeply personal level.

By Abraham Verghese,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Cutting for Stone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

My brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954. We took our first breaths in the thick air of Addis Ababa, capital city of Ethiopia. Bound by birth, we were driven apart by bitter betrayal. No surgeon can heal the would that divides two brothers. Where silk and steel fail, story must succeed. To begin at the beginning...

Book cover of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat And Other Clinical Tales

Eric Schwitzgebel Author Of The Weirdness of the World

From my list on blow your mind about the weirdness of the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

What I love about philosophy (I’ve been a philosophy professor at the University of California, Riverside, since 1997) is not its ability to deliver the one correct answer to the nature of the world and how to live but rather its power to open our mind to new possibilities that we hadn’t previously considered; its power to blow apart our presuppositions, our culturally given “common sense” understandings, and our habitual patterns of thinking, casting us into doubt and wonder. The science writing, fiction, and personal essays I love best have that same power.

Eric's book list on blow your mind about the weirdness of the world

Eric Schwitzgebel Why did Eric love this book?

Every time I revisit Sacks, especially this book, I am blown away anew at people’s ability to create meaning and value in the face of severe cognitive disability.

A man’s capacity to categorize objects is so impaired that when he moves to leave the room, he mistakenly reaches for his wife’s head instead of his hat. How can he even get through the day? With the help of familiar routines, his loving spouse, and music.

A “lost mariner” can’t retain any new information longer than a few minutes and still thinks he’s living decades ago, but he finds meaning in the timeless ceremonies of his religion. A man repeatedly throws his own leg out of bed and is surprised to find himself on the floor again….

By Oliver Sacks,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat And Other Clinical Tales as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celebrating Fifty Years of Picador Books

If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self - himself - he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it.

In this extraordinary book, Dr. Oliver Sacks recounts the stories of patients struggling to adapt to often bizarre worlds of neurological disorder. Here are people who can no longer recognize everyday objects or those they love; who are stricken with violent tics or shout involuntary obscenities, and yet are gifted with…

Book cover of It's All in Your Head: Stories from the Frontline of Psychosomatic Illness

Guy Leschziner Author Of The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience, and the Secret World of Sleep

From my list on medical mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

Guy Leschziner is a professor of neurology and sleep medicine at King’s College London. He is the author of The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience and The Secret World of Sleep, and the forthcoming The Man Who Tasted Words, and is a presenter on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service.

Guy's book list on medical mysteries

Guy Leschziner Why did Guy love this book?

For doctors and patients alike, it is almost impossible to understand how some of the most dramatic conditions we see – seizures, paralysis, blindness – may have an underlying psychological basis. In this book, O’Sullivan explains the basis of psychosomatic illness with skill, illustrating this area of neurological practice with fascinating case studies.

By Suzanne O'Sullivan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked It's All in Your Head as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A neurologist explores the very real world of psychosomatic illness.

Pauline first became ill when she was fifteen. What seemed to be a urinary infection became joint pain, then life-threatening appendicitis. After a routine operation Pauline lost all the strength in her legs. Shortly afterwards, convulsions started. But Pauline's tests are normal: her symptoms seem to have no physical cause whatsoever.

This may be an extreme case, but Pauline is not alone. As many as a third of people visiting their GP have symptoms that are medically unexplained. In most, an emotional root is suspected which is often the last…

Book cover of Ball Four: The Final Pitch

John Rosengren Author Of The Greatest Summer in Baseball History: How the '73 Season Changed Us Forever

From my list on stories about a single baseball season.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father used to take me to watch the Twins play at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, a twenty-minute drive from our house in suburban Minneapolis. As soon as the Twins announced their schedule each year, he would buy tickets for the doubleheaders. Our favorites were the twilight doubleheaders, when we watched one game by daylight, and the other under the night sky. Baseball was pure to me then: played outdoors on real grass. Seated beside my dad during those twin bills, I felt his love for the game seep into me and take root. All these years later, almost two decades after his death, that love remains strong.

John's book list on stories about a single baseball season

John Rosengren Why did John love this book?

I liked this book when I read it as a kid. I loved it when I went back to it as an adult, when I was able to better appreciate Bouton’s irreverence, character insights, and skewering of authority.

There’s a reason this memoir of his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots has become a classic. Bouton holds nothing back in letting us know what it’s like to be a professional ballplayer from the inside.

By Jim Bouton,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Ball Four as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Public Library Book of the Century Selection
Time Magazine “100 Greatest Non-Fiction Books” Selection
New Foreword from Jim Bouton’s Wife, Paula Bouton
When Ball Four was first published in 1970, it hit the sports world like a lightning bolt. Commissioners, executives, and players were shocked. Sportswriters called author Jim Bouton a traitor and "social leper." Commissioner Bowie Kuhn tried to force him to declare the book untrue. Fans, however, loved the book. And serious critics called it an important social document. Following his death, Bouton’s landmark book has remained popular, and his legacy lives on…

Book cover of Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal

Jennifer Cramer-Miller Author Of Incurable Optimist: Living with Illness and Chronic Hope

From my list on inspiring you to hug your life and savor every second.

Why am I passionate about this?

Hello, I am Jennifer Cramer-Miller—an author, speaker, and joy seeker. Thirty-some years ago, at 22, I had a cozy apartment with my best friend and a promising PR position. Then I was diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune kidney disease, and suddenly, doctors discussed my “quality of life.” At a very young age, life’s uncertainty fueled my will to survive. And I’ve learned that life is a mix of beauty and bummers. So as long as we’re alive, we should appreciate all of it. That’s why I’m drawn to books that illuminate what it means to be a human managing uncertainty, holding onto hope, and finding joy. 

Jennifer's book list on inspiring you to hug your life and savor every second

Jennifer Cramer-Miller Why did Jennifer love this book?

Deepak Chopra says, “I recommend this book highly to everyone.” Yes, Deepak Chopra, I agree! This is an oldie but oh-so-goodie.

Dr. Rachel Remen is a remarkable woman—a long-term chronic illness survivor, author, and doctor. She believes stories heal, and boy oh boy, she’s chock full of wisdom. This book is a swift and satisfying read, presenting life lessons in a series of brief chapters—different accounts from different patients. Dr. Remen’s winning writing style shines sparkles of truth through every single one.

By Rachel Naomi Remen,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Kitchen Table Wisdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"I recommend this book highly to everyone." --Deepak Chopra, M.D.

This special updated version of the New York Times-bestseller, Kitchen Table Wisdom, addresses the same spiritual issues that made the original a bestseller: suffering, meaning, love, faith, and miracles.

"Despite the awesome powers of technology, many of us still do not live very well," says Dr. Rachel Remen. "We may need to listen to one another's stories again." Dr. Remen, whose unique perspective on healing comes from her background as a physician, a professor of medicine, a therapist, and a long-term survivor of chronic illness, invites us to listen from…

Book cover of Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Elizabeth Anne Wood Author Of Bound: A Daughter, a Domme, and an End-of-Life Story

From my list on coping with the fact that we’re all going to die.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a little bit morbid since childhood. My father died when I was not quite 10 years old, and my mother was a huge fan of horror novels and scary movies. But I became seriously interested in death and dying when my mother got cancer and was facing the end of her own life. I acted as her medical advocate and participated in many aspects of her care. I'm also a sociologist who studies taboo elements of culture and I'm invested in creating a consciousness shift so that the United States is less death-phobic, allowing us all to live our lives more fully by addressing our mortality head-on!

Elizabeth's book list on coping with the fact that we’re all going to die

Elizabeth Anne Wood Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Atul Gawande is a doctor who writes like he’s a warm-hearted friend. I love the way that Gawande weaves stories about his medical practice into the story of his father’s life and death, while making deep insights into how we can improve hospital care, nursing home care, and end-of-life care for all.

I especially loved the chapters focused on re-envisioning health care and housing options for the elderly and ill. I love Gawande’s accessible style and the way he offers hope by looking at these issues from a very human perspective even when revealing problems that seem insurmountable from a distance.

By Atul Gawande,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Being Mortal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?




For most of human history, death was a common, ever-present possibility. It didn't matter whether you were five or fifty - every day was a roll of the dice. But now, as medical advances push the boundaries of survival further each year, we have become increasingly detached from the reality of being mortal. So here is a book about the modern experience of mortality - about what it's…

Book cover of How We Die: Reflections of Life's Final Chapter

Jennie Dear Author Of What Does It Feel Like to Die?: Inspiring New Insights Into the Experience of Dying

From my list on the experience of dying.

Why am I passionate about this?

When my mother enrolled in hospice after years of living with cancer, the nurse asked her: Do you want to know what will happen to your body as it starts shutting down? That was the first time anyone talked with us about the dying process. The question came as an immense relief, eventually inspiring this book. After witnessing the difficulties and surprising joys of my mother’s dying experience, I began hospice volunteering. Later, I spent three intensive stints volunteering at San Francisco’s Zen Hospice Project. And as a former journalist and associate professor of English, I began researching and interviewing experts. Their deep caring and knowledge inform this book.

Jennie's book list on the experience of dying

Jennie Dear Why did Jennie love this book?

Until I began researching death and dying, I hadn’t realized my quest was so literal-minded. Despite the satisfyingly large number of relevant books, most circle around the subject, focusing on areas such as grief, the importance of creating a living will, or funeral planning—all important topics, but I wanted to learn about dying itself.

Then I discovered Nuland’s book. Chapter by chapter, he describes what we know about the physical experience of dying, depending on the type of death: Heart attacks, murders, falls, Alzheimer’s, cancer. Nuland’s background is in surgery, and his descriptions are neither graphic nor gory, but he doesn’t flinch from providing details. Although his book was first published in 1993, no one has yet matched its straightforward, informative approach.

By Sherwin B. Nuland,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How We Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The definitive resource on perhaps the single most universal human concern: death.

Even more relevant than when it was first published, this edition addresses contemporary issues in end-of-life care and includes an all-embracing and incisive afterword that examines the state of health care and our relationship with life as it approaches its terminus. How We Die also discusses how we can take control of our own final days and those of our loved ones.

"Nuland's work acknowledges, with unmatched clarity, the harsh realities of how life departs… There is compassion, and often…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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