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The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer Paperback – August 9, 2011
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2010: "In 2010, about six hundred thousand Americans, and more than 7 million humans around the world, will die of cancer." With this sobering statistic, physician and researcher Siddhartha Mukherjee begins his comprehensive and eloquent "biography" of one of the most virulent diseases of our time. An exhaustive account of cancer's origins, The Emperor of All Maladies illustrates how modern treatments--multi-pronged chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, as well as preventative care--came into existence thanks to a century's worth of research, trials, and small, essential breakthroughs around the globe. While The Emperor of All Maladies is rich with the science and history behind the fight against cancer, it is also a meditation on illness, medical ethics, and the complex, intertwining lives of doctors and patients. Mukherjee's profound compassion--for cancer patients, their families, as well as the oncologists who, all too often, can offer little hope--makes this book a very human history of an elusive and complicated disease. --Lynette Mong
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Mukherjee's debut book is a sweeping epic of obsession, brilliant researchers, dramatic new treatments, euphoric success and tragic failure, and the relentless battle by scientists and patients alike against an equally relentless, wily, and elusive enemy. From the first chemotherapy developed from textile dyes to the possibilities emerging from our understanding of cancer cells, Mukherjee shapes a massive amount of history into a coherent story with a roller-coaster trajectory: the discovery of a new treatment--surgery, radiation, chemotherapy--followed by the notion that if a little is good, more must be better, ending in disfiguring radical mastectomy and multidrug chemo so toxic the treatment ended up being almost worse than the disease. The first part of the book is driven by the obsession of Sidney Farber and philanthropist Mary Lasker to find a unitary cure for all cancers. (Farber developed the first successful chemotherapy for childhood leukemia.) The last and most exciting part is driven by the race of brilliant, maverick scientists to understand how cells become cancerous. Each new discovery was small, but as Mukherjee, a Columbia professor of medicine, writes, "Incremental advances can add up to transformative changes." Mukherjee's formidable intelligence and compassion produce a stunning account of the effort to disrobe the "emperor of maladies." (Nov.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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When you are told you have cancer you are bewildered. You are also very angry. I asked myself was there something I had done in my past that was going to deprive me seeing my two sons grow up into happy young men and dads. The first two weeks go by in a weird nightmare. Day 17 your hair falls out. Your peeing orange from the chemo drugs, which have put me off lucozade for life. You double check all your insurances are up to date and update a well to make sure my wife does not have any hassles with the tax authorities. At the age of 44 you are very angry. You realise you are likely going to die. You are angry because you have no idea what is doing it. What you planned for when you were older is all meaningless. But, thanks to certain stubbornness and amazing treatment and care, and a generous sift of life from a German donor of life giving stem cells, I am alive.
This book helps explain many of the questions I had. It does it in a way that makes sense if you don't have a degree in science. What was until recently a death sentence is no longer the case. The battle against cancer was waged by intrepid individuals, and this book explains the war so far. It outlines the causes of cancer, whether it is a virus, bacteria, induced by smoking or chemicals, or just our own body playing up and turning on itself. It explains how our own understanding is still basic but advancing year by year, and treatments, if not cures, are being found for many, although not all cancers.
I learned that was once a death sentence is not the case today. I am looking forward to see my sons become men. This book gave me clarity, it gave me hope.
This is an extremely well written, well planned out and organized book. I'm almost as much in awe of the author's command of the English language as I am of the skill he had in organizing the material. If anyone else were to do a history of cancer, they truly could not match the quality of this book. I say this because the author strikes a perfect balance between focusing on details when needed and focusing on the big picture when needed. And he presents the material in such a way that the key points really stick with you. You walk away with an excellent understanding of the disease - certainly much more than the layman and probably more than some medical professionals - and a comprehensive understanding of how human beings have tried, and continue to try to understand this disease.
I think a lot of people should read this book. First of all to expel the myths and misunderstandings that people have about cancer. Second, to have a much better understanding of doctors and medical profession, including their limitations. And third because we all have been, will be, or know someone who is affected.
Gun Totin' ChaplainI've heard the good Doc/author interviewed several times: my favorite one was Terry Gross, from NPR. He is a great "interviewee" and more than a little inspiring. Another thing this book did for me: renewed my view that those who are in this field as professionals are incredibly dedicated and those who are the victims are brave beyond words. God bless them.