When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

My second Torch Under The Covers recommendation is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Although I’ll usually be blogging about fiction, this memoir is an absolute must-read.

What happens?

Paul Kalanithi is a successful neurosurgeon on the way to a prestigious surgeon-scientist role at one of the US’s top university hospitals when he begins to feel unwell. He ignores his sneaking suspicions of cancer until they become unignorable. When the news comes that he has cancer he decides that, as part of his career long search to understand the relationship between life and death, he needs to tell his story.

The book tells the story both of his training as a neurosurgeon and his “career” as a cancer patient. (The introduction makes it clear that this is published posthumously). He tells us about what he’s learned about the brain and how we understand death from an almost unique double perspective: that of a supremely intelligent and thoughtful surgeon and then that of a patient inside the healthcare system.

Why’s it a Torch Under The Covers read?

Whew. It’s not easy reading – the author makes us confront the truth about dying – that it will happen to everyone. Kalanithi’s voice is so clear and searching that you just *need* to finish his book. You know what’s going to happen, which makes it almost unbearably sad – but also uplifting. Kalanithi’s heart breaking experiences are, through his faultless prose, transformed into philosophical material. You won’t be able to leave him till he’s finished telling you his story.

How quickly did I read it?

In one day. What higher recommendation?!




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Not Working by Lisa Owens

For my first Torch Under The Covers recommendation I’m going for “Not Working” by Lisa Owens.

What happens?

Claire is a late twenties professional in London with a successful boyfriend, her own flat and a gang of mates. She’s living the Young Professional London Dream. So when she quits her job to “find herself”, she doesn’t expect to find that she’s not sure who she really is.

Why’s it a Torch Under The Covers read?

Quite simply, it’s hilarious. Lisa Owens nails all the cruddiness of London living with a dry wit that will have you laughing with Claire and biting back winces of recognition. My favourite was the description of the phone panic which surely I am not the only one to indulge in twenty times day. The description of the “cool oblong” of Claire’s phone in her bag is one of those phrases which you can’t get out of your head.

It’s also a page turner because you care about Claire. She’s fallible and real and you want her to succeed. Just as soon as she’s worked out what she wants.

How quickly did I read it?

2 evenings! I even ignored Making A Murderer. That’s how page-turning it was.

ThanksĀ to Pan Macmillan for approving my request to read this on NetGalley.





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The Torch Under The Covers

So I’m just trying to restart blogging! My idea is to blog about must-reads that keep you turning and turning the pages.

As a working mum I need a strong plot to keep me reading on and on rather than drifting into surfing the Internet on my phone. (I’m writing this on my phone….but try to ignore the obvious irony here…)

So my aim for this blog is to find those books that keep you turning and turning the pages even though you know you’re keeping yourself up past your bedtime. And that the kid will be up and raring to go in just a few short hours…..


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