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.
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‘Mukherjee calls this great and beautiful book a biography, rather than a history, because he wants his reader to understand his subject not just as a disease, a scientific problem or a social condition, but as a character – an antagonist with a story to tell. His intensely vivid and precise descriptions of biological processes accumulate into a character, fully developed and eerily familiar. The notion of "popular science" doesn't come close to describing this achievement. It is literature.’ Observer
‘This is a riveting book…profound, eloquent and searching’ John Carey, Sunday Times
‘”The Emperor of All Maladies” is the book that many will have been waiting for. This elegantly written overview allows us to look a once whispered-about illness squarely in the eye.’ Independent
‘So beautifully written; this is literature, not popular science. “The Emperor of Maladies” empowers us, makes it clear that we really do know this enemy, and so brings us another step closer to victory.’ Evening Standard
‘Mukherjee never condescends, yet he manages to write lucidly and tellingly about complex experimental, technological and theoretical matters’ Will Self, New Statesman
'Siddhartha Mukherjee has done something that should not have been possible: he has managed, at once, to write an authoritative history of cancer for the general reader, while always keeping the experiences of cancer patients in his heart and in his narrative. At once learned and skeptical,
unsentimental and humane, The Emperor of all Maladies is that rarest of things - a noble book.'
David Rieff, author of Swimming in a Sea of Death
'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
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.
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