The Emperor of All Maladies [Book Review]

Title: The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
Author: Siddhartha Mukherjee
Narrator: Stephan Hoye
Genre: Non-fiction; Science; Medicine; History
ISBN: 9781439107959
Pages: 592
Audio: 20 hours 45 minutes
Year: 2010
Publisher: Tantor Media
Source: Library
Rating: 4.5/5

Summary/My Thoughts:

The Emperor of All Maladies is sub-titled “A Biography of Cancer.” It is really a history of our battle against cancer. Mukherjee, a physician, has the medical knowledge and writing ability to succeed in this narrative of cancer.

The book focuses on the changes in cancer diagnosis and the evolution of its treatment. Much of the book details Sidney Farber’s obsession to find a cure with Mary Laskar’s aid. It was easy to get caught up in Farber’s story and hope for more progress than I knew I could reasonably expect.

One thing that really struck me was the politics involved in cancer research and treatment. Surgeons and Chemotherapists refusing to work together because each was convinced their treatment was the best. Politicians refusing to pass the necessary legislation. Cigarette manufacturers lying to their consumers for years. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way, and it makes me angry to think that these people were selfish enough to delay progress.

Stephen Hoye’s narration was fine. Even though I spent a LONG time with him, I don’t have strong feelings either way. But the narrator was not as important to me as it is in other books. The story stood on its own.

The book is long, but that just makes it complete. Mukherjee weaves stories of individual patients in with the history and science. It’s a good reminder that the story of cancer is not objective. It  is affecting all of our lives all the time. Although the book is obviously full of loss, it ends with hope. We are making progress in the battle against cancer. And Mukherjee believes we will continue to make progress.

Others’ Thoughts: The Avid Reader’s Musings; Bibliophile by the Sea; Devourer of Books; Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books; S. Krishna’s Books; The Book Lady’s Blog

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