Love the book as a window. Shocked by the number of definitions for the word "turn". Widowed and sad, but thankful. Trying hard to be useful. Have 28 years as a step-father to a fantastic grand-daughter and a not so fantastic drug addicted, step-daughter. Oddly focused on the fun of preparing to die well, and help those left behind, while eating, hot springing, and reading for pleasure.
My wife is in the fight of her life. We both felt like she brought cancer, ugly life ruining cancer, to our home. The guilt was almost as bad as the disease. Thanks to this fantastic page turner of a book, we now know and understand at least 131 reasons why cancer kills (a slight attempt at humor, there are thousands of reasons), and none of them were chosen by us. We also know the fight is doable and many people, with lots of help, win the cancer battle. Not only is this book important, it is actually a pleasure to read. I listened to the audio version, then bought a hard copy and am halfway back through it. In my mind this is a GREAT BOOK.
As a Pathologist for 45 yrs I remember a few of these discoveries and changes, this book puts them in perspective. "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" reminded me of the PBS series "America" and "Connections", but from a oncological orientation. The book should be required reading for all practicing Oncologists and Pathologists perhaps all medical students. Cancer patients would also benefit knowing that miracles can happen supporting what Coach Valvano once said: "Never, never, never give up". The book supports my view that all patients with cancer should be strongly encouraged to enroll in cancer in protocols, for this is the only way we can speed up discoveries. It is disheartening to know that so few patients are in these studies and many of the patients that I have diagnosed with cancer in the past could be alive today if only these discoveries could have been made a few years earlier. The book also documents how advances in basic science can have unforseen effects on applied clinical science. I began as a student working in an organic chemistry lab in the late 1950's making organic compounds for my professor to test their effects on tumor growth in mice. I had no idea what an important job we were doing at the time. When I present patients at my cancer conferences and show before and after treatment results I am often left spechless. But these advances are not cheap from both a human and monentary perspective. Even once acheived, they are often very expensive to utilize. Unfortunately the public sees only the end product cost, can't appreciate why so much. Medicine needs to do more PR and let the press know what we have acomplish. Finally I was impressed with Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee aproach to his patients. He reminds me of physicans I have known and respected including my father. I am glad to see we are still graduating young men like him from our Medical Schools.
This is sometimes a great book, sometimes not so great. Sometimes I strongly disagree with the author, other times agree completely. It is informative, if strpngly slanted toward the USA and Boston in particular as the center of all important advances in cancer treatment and research. A huge amount of work being done in other parts of the US and other countries is entirely omitted.
Now for the big big problem: If you, as I do, HAVE cancer, this is a disturbing book and I do NOT recommend it. It is not optimistic. Quite the opposite. I felt significantly worse about my odds of survival before I read. If any book defines "too much information" from the point of view of someone battling any form of this disease or who even knows friends or family battling it ( ... and who doesn't have any of them?) this is too much, too dark, too ugly.
Or so I found it. I actually could not sleep after reading it. I figured I might as well write my will and count my days. The author basically says, in summary, that
(1) we will never conquer cancer because it is part of our basic cellular structure
(2) cancer is as much a part of being human as is birth and growth and thus inescapable.
This is not the kind of positive attitude that one needs to combat the depression that is such a close companion to cancer patients.
If you are, for your own reasons (like, maybe you are a researcher in Boston or an oncologist) fine, for but civilians, you may consider takiing my word: there is no comfort to be found in this book. It will not give you hope. It will not make you feel better. In this particular case, knowledge is NOT power: it is just depressing.
It's well narrated. It's mostly well written. Aside from it's very obvious bias towards the author's own experiences, it contains tons of information.
Note that I actually know quite a lot of about this subject and I do NOT agree with many of the author's conclusions. He is by his own admission, a lab rat, and his dependence on statistics rather than experiences and patient histories is exactly what is wrong with cancer treatment. He and so many doctors like him ARE the problem, not the solution.
As a non-oncology physician, I thought the book was well written, pretty engrossing, and a nice history of a disease and medicine's attempts to treat it. I find medical history fascinating so hearing about the original discoveries that led to some targetted therapeis and association studies linking smoking to lung cancer is amazing. The author is a very good story teller. As a clinical researcher, its nice to see in press balanced discussions about the impact of other strategies such as prevention on cancer. As a non-oncologist, however, it always amazes me how cancer grips people, even though there are many other diseases with even worse prognosis and impediments on life style.
However, i find that narration awful. I listened to flags of my fathers by this narrator, and his voice may have been appropriate for a book that is that maudulin, but this is painful. Every word is so syruppy and slow. It makes you sort of sick listening to him after a while.
This is surely one of the most miserable subjects to write about. The history of cancer, as this book so vividly portrays, is a history of repeated ignorance, desperation and failure. Victories are rare.
The author is almost frustratingly good at presenting that world of pain and desperation by patients and doctors and scientists alike.
I could not say it was enjoyable, but a book on this subject was never going to be. It is a tough book, but one which provides a thorough understanding and perspective on this disease that will be with us for a long time yet.
Very well written and extremely well narrated.
This book is THE antidote to all of the fear, willful ignorance and half-baked speculation which surrounds the myriad of diseases commonly known as cancer.
For those out there who harbor the belief that the cure for cancer is a simple proposition that would've been settled long ago if not for the evil machinations of big pharma and government funded medical research, you should read this book and educate yourself as to the bafflingly complex nature of these diseases, the inherent difficulties in finding treatments for them, and the amazing efforts made by researchers and clinicians who are busting their asses trying to learn more about cancer in order to fight it effectively.
While the chapters highlighting the brutal over treatment regimens of the radical surgery era as well as early chemo and radiation therapy,(and the ignorance and hubris which fueled them), are a little depressing, the final third of the book is very optimistic about the present and future of cancer treatment.
We now know what cancer is and what sort of things cause it, there are forms of cancer which are curable or highly treatable with methods which are being more and more targeted and refined to mitigate side effects.
Cheers to the author for making this book so entertaining as well as informative.
Runner, Commuter, Dietitian with a passion for U.S. History.
If there is another book as comprehensive and detailed as this one about any illness, I'd be amazed. This book was suprisingly engrossing. After years as a clinical RD working with cancer patients and specialists, I now work only on the periphry of health care. Nonetheless, It was fascinating to learn the backround of all that I had seen years ago. Who knew that all the bone marrow transplants for breast cancer that had generated such hope and optimism and cutting enthusiasm in the 80's and 90's were based on fraudulant medical reporting and doomed to failure. I did really well with the book until the third section on cell biology. While a fascinating topic and very detailed, I couldn't listen without getting sleepy on my commute. I'd recommend especially if you are a patient, loved one, physician or nurse.
Addicted to Audible!
Being a nurse who has also has a daughter who survived a childhood cancer and many relatives with cancer I found this book to be absolutely fascinating. I found the narration to be excellent. I thought a book of this type, long as it was, would get boring which is why I didnt buy the hard copy. However, it never got slow and it kept me engaged till the end. I also found it very hopeful rather than depressing. We have come so far in such a short time and every day we are making greater strides in understanding this disease that is actually many different diseases lumped together. One day, God willing, cancer will be curable without the devastating treatments that are currently available! Thank you Dr. Mukherjee for your research on this book! And God bless all the researchers who are diligently working on a cure!
As a physician, I particularly enjoyed this book and actually learned a few things myself. The book is a thorough review of the causes, prevention and treatment of cancer. I felt that the writing was only average and the organization of material could have been better. The author also can't quite keep his academic condescension in check, but only in a few parts.
The book is a history of cancer, not cancer patients. Although he does describe several inspirational stories, the majority of the book is about the disease. He takes several common cancers from their discovery through their history and to their modern treatment. This causes a jumping around in time that gets disorienting over 20 hours of listening. But it does allow him to focus on specific aspects of treatment and prevention and deeply explore them.
The writing is average. Most puns and symmetries are explicitly pointed out to the reader (e.g. "you see I am ending with the same cancer I began the book with...") instead of left for the reader to observe.
The final chapters go into the molecular biology of tumors, and will be less interesting for the non-medical reader (I've done chromosomal research and still started to get bored.) At this point the book loses focus and it's had to tell when he wants to sum up and when he wants to keep introducing new material.
The narration is good, but the medical pronunciation is jarringly wrong in places. I'm always surprised how little effort seems to go into correct pronunciation of uncommon words in audio books.
In conclusion, I found the book enjoyable to listen to and very interesting and informative. There were no big flaws, but enough different minor flaws to subtract a star. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the history of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Although it might help a cancer patient better understand their disease, I do not think it would be a source of inspiration for someone with a new diagnosis or actively battling cancer.
Telecommuter living outside of San Francisco, CA. I listen to books while walking my dog, quilting, and doing chores around the house.
I probably wouldn't have made it though this book if I had been reading a paper version. (do to the medical terminology and drug names). However, I found this book to be fascinating and well narrated.