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The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer [Hardcover]

Siddhartha Mukherjee
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)

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Book Description

16 Nov 2010

A magnificent, beautifully written biography of cancer - from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles to cure, control and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.

In The Emperor of All Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee, doctor, researcher and award-winning science writer, examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with - and perished from - for more than five thousand years.
The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience and perseverance, but also of hubris, arrogance and misperception, all leveraged against a disease that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out ‘war against cancer’. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories and deaths, told through the eyes of predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary.
From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave cut off her malignant breast, to the nineteeth-century recipient of primitive radiation and chemotherapy and Mukherjee’s own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through toxic, bruising, and draining regimes to survive and to increase the store of human knowledge.
Riveting and magesterial, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments and a brilliant new perspective on the way doctors, scientists, philosophers and lay people have observed and understood the human body for millennia.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 571 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner Book Company (16 Nov 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439107955
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439107959
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.1 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,163,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'Sid Mukherjee's book is a pleasure to read, if that is the right word. Cancer today is widely regarded as the worst of all the diseases from which one might suffer - if only because it is fast becoming the most common. Dr. Mukherjee explains how this perception came about, how cancer has been regarded across the years and what is now being done to treat its protean forms. His book is the clearest account I have read on this subject. With The Emperor of all Maladies, he joins that small fraternity of practicing doctors who cannot just talk about their profession but write about it.'
Tony Judt, author of Postwar and III Fares the Land

‘Rarely have the science and poetry of illness been so elegantly braided together as they are in this erudite, engrossing, kind book. Mukherjee's clinical wisdom never erases the personal tragedies which are its occasion; indeed, he locates with meticulous clarity and profound compassion the beautiful hope buried in cancer's ravages.’
Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of The Noonday Demon

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Siddhartha Mukherjee M.D., Ph.D., is a cancer physician and researcher. He is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a cancer physician at the CU/NYU Presbyterian Hospital. A Rhodes Scholar, he graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford, and from Harvard Medical School and was a Fellow at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and an attending physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He has published articles in Nature, New England Journal of Medicine, Neuron, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, The New York Times, and The New Republic.
He lives in New York with his wife and daughter.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
70 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our perfect madness 17 Feb 2011
By Mark C
Cancer is an enormous subject: its influence on the history of medicine, on society, on politics... can't be over-estimated. Somebody was bound to take the risk of trying to capture all of this in one book. `I started off by imagining my project as a "history" of cancer. But it felt, inescapably, as if I were writing not about something but about someone. My subject daily morphed into something that resembled an individual - an enigmatic, if somewhat deranged, image in a mirror.' So Siddhartha Mukherjee, cancer physician and researcher, redefined his project: it became `a biography of cancer' - although `a thrilling piece of sublime literary non-fiction' captures the book just as well.

Mukherjee starts off the book on familiar ground: a woman being asked to return to the hospital as soon as possible, because something has shown up in the tests she underwent. This something is leukemia, a liquid cancer, and it catapults us back in time: to 1847, when the term leukemia was coined.
The first chapter is dedicated to the earliest known cases of cancer. We consider cancer a "modern" illness (and it is, because only in the last two centuries have we started to grow old enough for cancer to become the second most common cause of death) but there are some freakishly ancient occurrences. Atossa (550 > 475 BC), queen of Persia, had her breast cut off - a breast cancer that even made an army change direction. (I'm not going to explain this: it's one of the mesmerizing anecdotes you have to read for yourself.) And then there's the Peruvian mummy with a thousand year old preserved cancer. `It is hard to look at the [mummy] tumor and not come away with the feeling that one has encountered a powerful monster in its infancy', Mukherjee observes.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply fascinating 21 Sep 2011
By M. K. Burton VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The struggle to understand and to cure cancer has consumed medical researchers throughout the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries. Mukherjee takes a deeply in-depth look at the illness throughout history in this biography of an illness, where cancer is often visualized as a crab scurrying and burrowing away from all reach of therapy. The author adds his own experience to a years-long study of cancer to provide a definitive, insightful book on the way this illness has gripped our modern day lives.

I think almost everyone I know has lost someone near and dear to them to cancer. I have; my brother died at only eighteen from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. If anything, the fact that we've all been touched by this horrible illness in its many incarnations makes a book like The Emperor of All Maladies an even more important read. Reading this book was always going to be difficult, but it is on a subject I wanted to understand. After it won the Pulitzer Prize, and unending praise from many of my favorite bloggers, I simply had to read it, no matter how uncomfortable the subject matter.

I'm really glad I made that choice, because this book was excellent in so many ways. Mukherjee skilfully weaves together his own years treating cancer patients, ensuring that we get an up close and personal view of what it's like to fight cancer today, with a thorough history of the illness, including its ancient manifestations, early treatments, and continuing right up to the medicines and techniques used to treat various kinds of cancer today. I learned so much from this book, certainly things I never even thought about, like how the War on Cancer got started in the first place, what the Jimmy Fund is, and so on.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Cancer and its Treatments 9 April 2011
First, I have to declare an interest in the subject - I have been diagnosed with leukemia since 2003, have gone through five chemotherapy regimes and remission for me only seems to last months rather than years. However I am (morbidly) fascinated by the subject and here is a book written by a doctor and researcher in a plain English literary style that does not confuse the general reader with too many scientific names or jargon. Dr Mukherjee is certainly to be congratulated for producing such a lucid and understandable account of the disease. Starting from records of cancer in early history, the book concentrates on the developments of detecting and understanding cancer and its treatment, with special emphasis on the stirling work performed by Sid Farber after the Second World War and the rapid development of treatments to first try to control the disease, up until the last twenty years with the development of specialised monoclonal antibodies to actually target specific types of cancer.

The subject itself is fascinating with such topics as how discoveries of scrotal cancer among boy chimney sweeps in the 19th Century have led to the cause of lung cancer being convincingly stated in the 1950's and the adverse reaction this would have on the powerful tobacco industry. Everyone has probably heard of a "Pap-smear" but who knows where the word "Pap" originated? The book describes the work of George Papanicolaou, over many decades in developing the smear technique but only realised in 1950 that it could not detect cancer - but could find its precursor so allowing cervical cancer to be treated in a preventative manner before the disease took hold. There are far too many highlights to mention in this brief review.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars the best book I have ever read on the subject
The definitive account of the history of the discovery and treatment of cancers, it is, without doubt, the best book I have ever read on the subject, a superb chronolology of the... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Mrs C Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for, well, all of us
intense, humbling, uplifting. an extremely well written and engaging history of cancer and its treatment. Essential reading for anyone researching, treating or living with cancer.
Published 1 month ago by Tracey Lonergan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliantly researched and written.
Published 1 month ago by I H T
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars
Excellent biography of cancer - beautifully written, and so informative! Loved it so much. A true credit to the author
Published 2 months ago by Catherine Magrath
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book
I bought this book to help understand cancer for my research proposal, it is a little tough going, quite difficult to understand in parts, but did help.
Published 3 months ago by Mrs
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating
As a medic, training to be a haematologist, this was a fascinating insight into how the treatments I use every day (RCHOP, ABVD, imatinib etc), were discovered and developed. Read more
Published 5 months ago by pipn
5.0 out of 5 stars Not depressing, or not very
An extraordinary book that covers the history of the fight against cancer in all its forms. The writing is warm and human, conveying the hope and the hopelessness of both patients... Read more
Published 5 months ago by NaWiWei
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This is one of the best introductions to the science and history of cancer. Written for both the layperson and physician alike. Read more
Published 6 months ago by john kirwan
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!
Brilliantly written, reads like a thriller but always manages to keep kindness at it's heart. I'm also highly impressed by the structure of the book, with a modern backbone of a... Read more
Published 6 months ago by L. M. Jordan
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book
Well, well written, with enough detail to satisfy those with a science background, and well-explained and personal enough to engage those who don't.
Published 6 months ago by David W. Hughes
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