When Breath Becomes Air.  By Paul Kalanithi

All are invited to join us at our March book club meetings, which will be on the 9th and 23rd at 2 pm at the home of Joan Higginson, 86 Auburn St.

This inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic young neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

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 treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And 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 neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

February Book Club: A Beautiful Question by Frank Wilczek

This is the non-fiction book club selection for February, We will be meeting at the home of Gillian Trowbridge, 24 Cricket Place., February 9th and 23rd.  All are welcome to join in these thoughtful discussions.


Artists as well as scientists throughout human history have pondered this “beautiful question.” With Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek as your guide, embark on a voyage of related discoveries, from Plato and Pythagoras up to the present. Wilczek’s groundbreaking work in quantum physics was inspired by his intuition to look for a deeper order of beauty in nature. In fact, every major advance in his career came from this intuition: to assume that the universe embodies beautiful forms, forms whose hallmarks are symmetry—harmony, balance, proportion—and economy. There are other meanings of “beauty,” but this is the deep logic of the universe—and it is no accident that it is also at the heart of what we find aesthetically pleasing and inspiring.

Wilczek is hardly alone among great scientists in charting his course using beauty as his compass. As he reveals in A Beautiful Question, this has been the heart of scientific pursuit from Pythagoras, the ancient Greek who was the first to argue that “all things are number,” to Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, Einstein, and into the deep waters of twentieth century physics. Though the ancients weren’t right about everything, their ardent belief in the music of the spheres has proved true down to the quantum level. Indeed, Wilczek explores just how intertwined our ideas about beauty and art are with our scientific understanding of the cosmos.

Wilczek brings us right to the edge of knowledge today, where the core insights of even the craziest quantum ideas apply principles we all understand. The equations for atoms and light are almost literally the same equations that govern musical instruments and sound; the subatomic particles that are responsible for most of our mass are determined by simple geometric symmetries. The universe itself, suggests Wilczek, seems to want to embody beautiful and elegant forms. Perhaps this force is the pure elegance of numbers, perhaps the work of a higher being, or somewhere between. Either way, we don’t depart from the infinite and infinitesimal after all; we’re profoundly connected to them, and we connect them. When we find that our sense of beauty is realized in the physical world, we are discovering something about the world, but also something about ourselves.

Gorgeously illustrated, A Beautiful Question is a mind-shifting book that braids the age-old quest for beauty and the age-old quest for truth into a thrilling synthesis. It is a dazzling and important work from one of our best thinkers, whose humor and infectious sense of wonder animate every page. Yes: The world is a work of art, and its deepest truths are ones we already feel, as if they were somehow written in our souls.

January Bookclub: The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard  Mlodinow

The meetings in January will be at the home of Ed Adams, January 12 and at the home of Brian Ling January 26, both at 2pm.  Everyojanuary-book-clubne is welcome to join us for these interesting discussions.

With the born storyteller’s command of narrative and imaginative approach, Leonard Mlodinow vividly demonstrates how our lives are profoundly informed by chance and randomness and how everything from wine ratings and corporate success to school grades and political polls are less reliable than we believe.

By showing us the true nature of chance and revealing the psychological illusions that cause us to misjudge the world around us, Mlodinow gives us the tools we need to make more informed decisions. From the classroom to the courtroom and from financial markets to supermarkets, Mlodinow’s intriguing and illuminating look at how randomness, chance, and probability affect our daily lives will intrigue, awe, and inspire.

DECEMBER BOOK SELECTION: SAPIENS – BY YUVAL HARARI

Note the December 22nd meeting will be held at the home of Gord & Helen Drew, 408-1742 Ravenwood Drive. This is the book selection for the December meetings of the non-fiction bookclub being held at the home of Gillie Trowbridge, 24 Cricket Place, Peterborough on...

October 2016: THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC, by Daniel J. Levitin

This is the book selection for the October meetings of the non-fiction bookclub being held at the home of Helen Griffin, 1370 Armstrong Drive on the 13th and 27th at 2.00pm All are welcome to attend and enjoy the discussion of this fascinating book. Think of a song...

JUNE 2016: Thoreau’s “Walden”

The book Club will be meeting only once in June, on the 16th at the home of Brian Ling, 440 Carriage lane, at 2pm. Nature was a form of religion for naturalist, essayist, and early environmentalist Henry David Thoreau (1817–62). In communing with the natural world, he...

APRIL 2016: THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING BY NAOMI KLEIN

The non-fiction book club will be meeting in April at the home of Isobel Knowles, 1690 Cherryhill Road, on the 14th and 28th at 2pm.  Our book at that  time will be This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. “This is the new environmentalism . . . and it has a powerful...

March 2016: The Impossible Will Take a Little While, by Paul Rogat Loeb

Our book this month is “The Impossible Will Take a Little While” by Paul Rogat Loeb. What keeps us going when times get tough? How have the leaders and unsung heroes of world-changing political movements persevered in the face of cynicism, fear, and seemingly overwhelming odds?

January 2016: Unlikely Utopia, by Michael Adams

The January meetings of the book club will be January 8th and 22nd at 2pm at the home of Ed Adams, 1042 Oriole Dr. Our book this month is Unlikely Utopia by Michael Adams. Around the world, sectarian tensions divide societies, sometimes erupting into violent...