Dr. MeiLan Han transfers years of knowledge as a lung doctor, or pulmonologist, to the printed word in her upcoming book Breathing Lessons: A Doctor’s Guide to Lung Health. With this book, she offers explanations of many lung-related conditions including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, and many others.

Dr. Han discusses how doctors both observe and test their patients to diagnose lung conditions. Additionally, she explains a variety of treatments. But most importantly, her goal is to explain how to keep our lungs healthy. By breaking it down over the decades of life, Dr. Han shows that lung health truly begins in childhood.

And this isn’t how the medical community traditionally addresses it. Therefore, she seeks to inform patients in the hopes that they will take the reins and request lung-related follow-up.

Paying attention to our lungs throughout our lives also helps us gain better overall health and function as we age. But Dr. Han also realizes many people reading her book need help in the latter decades of their lives. So she addresses that as well.

My conclusions

Dr. Han is clearly a compassionate physician who cares about the state of people’s lungs. She recognizes that lung health is crucial to life, a fact that COVID-19 brought to the forefront. Our breathing capabilities are a vital sign of health or illness. Unfortunately, they’re often minimized or ignored until it’s too late.

She articulates complicated medical conditions with ease and finds a balance between medical jargon and typical layperson terminology. But from a writing perspective, Breathing Lessons felt dry as a bone to me.

I appreciated her historical perspectives on pulmonology. But more patient stories or other illustrations of the medical concepts would help lighten the academic nature of the content. Still, if you need a general lung-related reference with a focus on Western, allopathic medicine, this is a strong entry.

Pair with Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by journalist James Nestor, which offers complementary perspectives on the breath.


Many thanks to NetGalley, W.W. Norton & Company, and the author for a digital advance readers copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.