Key Summary

Welcome to this post on Breathing Lessons, A Doctor’s Guide to Lung Health by Dr. MeiLan K. Han. This is a fantastic book all about our vital organ: the lungs. Breathing Lessons is published by W.W. Norton & Co. on 2nd November 2021 and will be available in hardback and ebook. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This post is mainly a book review, however; I’ll also be sharing some highlights which I found useful as an asthmatic.

a slide with a few statistics about the lungs on it


Breathing Lessons Review


This book opens with an introduction which highlights the author’s expertise and sets the upcoming chapters in context. There is a chapter on how the lungs work, then one about viral, bacterial and fungal infections. The third chapter deals with protecting your lungs throughout all of life’s stages. Chapter four describes a lung MOT with a pulmonologist. Chapter 5 provides short guides to several common lungs diseases including asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis and others. The final chapter looks to future solutions.

a copy of breathing lessons with six arrows pointing away from it each with a one sentence summary of that chapter


Dr. Han has a great writing style. She writes simply but accurately, therefore her book is suitable for a general audience. She’s great at clearly explaining the more complex areas so that anyone can understand. Her writing is engaging too, so that even if lung health is not the most exciting area for the reader, she makes it interesting. I personally, am fascinated by respiratory health!


There is a lot of information about heart health, diet and brain training. If you go for a GP check-up they will likely look at things like blood pressure, pulse, weight, diet, smoking and alcohol etc. The lungs are comparatively neglected despite being a major organ. Dr Han makes the case that they should be treated with equal importance as our other vital organs. Few people who didn’t have a pre-existing lung condition gave much thought to lung health before the covid pandemic. This is because they didn’t feel they needed to. There are no ‘lung health’ campaigns (other than related to giving up smoking) that we so often see for heart health. Since the pandemic, however, people are interested in how to keep their lungs healthy and survive viral infections such as covid.

For me the highlight chapters were the ones about protecting the lungs and about different lung diseases. I found these the most interesting and appreciated the author’s practical advice. The slides below show a few top tips, but the author goes into much more detail. For example she talks about the risks of different workplaces from obvious ones like mining and farming to less obvious ones like hairdressing and office work. She describes the nature of the hazard and gives a range of practical steps to reduce it.

top tips for lung health 1top tips for lung health 2

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to know more about: how the lungs work, improving the health of their lungs or their children’s, managing lung diseases and the future of pulmonology. Well written in accessible and engaging style, suitable for a general readership.

Breathing Lessons Synopsis

An authoritative, accessible guide to how our lungs work and how to protect them.

Most of us pay little attention to the workings of our lungs, but the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked interest in their functioning and fear about the risks they face. Dr. MeiLan K. Han, a leading pulmonologist and a national spokesperson for the American Lung Association, takes readers on a fascinating tour of this most vital organ.

Han explains the wonder of breathing and reveals how the lungs serve as the body’s first line of defense. She provides a timely overview of the latest scientific thinking about the leading respiratory risks—including indoor and outdoor pollution, smoking and vaping, wildfire smoke, and viruses like SARS-CoV-2—and offers a practical guide to keeping lungs healthy. And with authority as both practitioner and medical researcher, she argues powerfully for a social policy that makes a priority of preserving lung health nationwide.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I really like the sound of this book, doing breathing exercises is a way I cope with panic attacks and anxiety so this would be great to read. I also like that Han is fighting for such a great policy.

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