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.
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!
Undoubtedly, The Emperor of All Maladies is an excellent book - well researched and well written. I was excited to listen to it. Where the problem came for me is that I realized that I just am not fascinated by medical/science stories. So, my recommendation is this: if you are someone who is intrigued by the medical world, you certainly will love this book. If, like me, your interest in science is not that strong, you might prefer to use your credit elsewhere rather than committing to a 21 hour tome.
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.
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 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.
Runner, Commuter, Dietitian and lover of 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.
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.
I plan to recommend this book to my bookgroup. In this day and age, nearly all of us have been impacted in some way by cancer--either personally or with friends and family. Author Mukherjee is an oncologist who traces breast cancer from an Egyptian mummy to present day cancers of all types in this informative biography of a dreaded disease. Not only is he able to trace the long progression of this disease, but he is able to intertwine anecdotal stories of his patients with the long of history of cellular research and the change in focus from cure to prevention. If you have read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, you are already familiar with some of the early research and "cures." One of the most distressing parts of the book was the discovery of nicotine's links to lung cancer, and the clever methods of the tobacco industry in attempt to stymie legislation to prevent smoking. The author sees cancer as a puzzle. He is careful to denote that it is not a single disease, but a variety--all of which require different treatments--and not all are curable. His discourse on the change from radical masectomies to lumpectomies was especially interesting. His coverage of the evolution of chemotherapy was also very informative. Stephen Hoyle did his best to give life to what might be considered a somewhat dry topic, but it is difficult to give a great performance with such difficult subject matter--which is why he only got 4 stars. If you are interested in learning about a disease that affects so many, you cannot go wrong by using your credit for this very informative, unforgettable biography.
The book gives a great overview of humanity understanding, experimenting and fighting with the disease. Although the writing flows nicely and there are a lot of real human stories and anecdotes, you get somewhat tired by the middle of the book.
The author has a somewhat unhealthy admiration for the enemy he is trying to conquer, and the conclusion that we need to learn how to live with cancer better since it is not going anywhere, is slightly on a philosophically depressing side.
I would not recommend it to readers who fight with the disease right now and have a “religious” outlook on life, or especially their very close and emotional relatives. You have to be a pragmatic and a philosopher to take the book straight.