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The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of…

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (2010)

by Siddhartha Mukherjee

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This is a detailed but highly readable treatment of human experience of the various diseases collectively called cancer. An oncologist himself, the author examines the history of the malady. He explores advances in diagnosis and treatment over the century. Diving deeper, he reports on research into the cellular and genetic processes underlying the uncontrolled replication of cells. Throughout it all, though, he puts a human face on the battle.
It wasn't until I was most of the way through this book that I found out it's the source for a new Ken Burns documentary that will be airing on PBS stations this Spring. ( )
  dickmanikowski | Feb 18, 2015 |

I had been willing to read The Emperor of All Maladies for quite some time, but never got to it before.

At University I follow classes from Biomedical Sciences, so I found it really interesting to read about this. The book is not only about cancer, but mostly about all the different ways scientists en doctors have tried to defeat cancer. Many ways to so have (unfortunately) failed, but it also shows that through more and more research we are coming closer to a better solution.

Personally I liked to see so many things I've heard in college be mentioned in this book. ( )
  Floratina | Jan 4, 2015 |
This is a great book. I've just been reading a section about tobacco as a carcinogen, the research that went into that and the involvement of the tobacco companies and the government. It reads almost like a thriller and the deceitfulness and amorality of the tobacco companies seems so familiar: the kind of dishonest, bad faith behavior that seems to rule the day, both in business and government. I was struck that the connection between cigarettes and lung cancer was already in play as early as 1953. Pretty amazing! ( )
  jdukuray | Dec 31, 2014 |
An impressively detailed - but sometimes dry - story of the dreaded disease, from its first recorded discoveries to the present day. It's filled with twists and turns, false starts and breathtaking breakthroughs - and thankfully, in the end it's a book filled with hope for the future. ( )
  alexrichman | Nov 30, 2014 |
Siddhartha Mukherjee is an oncologist, and The Emperor of All Maladies is part his reflection on his work with cancer patients, part a history of how people have thought of and treated cancer, and part an explanation of modern scientific understandings of cancer. Mukherjee has a real gift for explaining complex scientific ideas in prose that's lucid but not dumbed down, though there were some parts of the presentation of the book that irked me a little. The marketing of it as a "biography of cancer" is reductive, anthropomorphising, and largely meaningless. (We cannot, as Mukherjee writes at one point, "enter the mind of this immortal illness, to understand its personality." That's to reinforce the idea of cancer as the discrete, malevolent force that Mukherjee otherwise works so hard to dispel.) It's still an engrossing book, though perhaps one not to read in public—the details of the various treatments and experiments undergone by patients and researchers made me pull some horrified faces during my morning commute. ( )
  siriaeve | Nov 13, 2014 |
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It's time to welcome a new star in the constellation of great doctor-writers. With this fat, enthralling, juicy, scholarly, wonderfully written history of cancer, Siddhartha Mukherjee - a cancer physician and researcher at Columbia University - vaults into that exalted company ...
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Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell. to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place. --Susan Sontag
To Robert Sandler (1945-1948), and to those who came before and after him.
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(Prologue) On the morning of May 19, 2004, Carla Reed, a thirty-year-old kindergarten teacher from Ipswich, Massachusets, a mother of three young children, woke up in bed with a headache.
In a damp fourteen-by-twenty-foot laboratory in Boston on a December morning in 1947, a man named Sidney Farber waited impatiently for the arrival of a parcel from New York.
In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backwards. That is a very useful accomplishment, and a very easy one, but people do not practice it much.- Sherlock Holmes, in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet
Physicians of the utmost fame Were called at once; but when they came They answered, as they took their Fees, "There is no Cure for this Disease." - Hilaire Belloc
Its palliation is a daily task, its cure a fervent hope. - William Castle, describing leukemia in 1950
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A magnificently written "biography" of cancer--from its origins to the epic battle to cure, control, and conquer it.

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