It's impossible to exaggerate the impact of cancer on the human race; it is the greatest enemy we have ever known. The book is fascinating, highly readable, well laid out, horrifying, gripping, wonderful. The writing is amazing-- organized medical reportage, chronologically sensible history, personal stories of patients, researchers, oncology practitioners, and civilian fundraisers, and no small amount of poetic prose.
The section on lung cancer and big tobacco made me supremely grateful that I recently quit smoking, and made me pray that I can keep the promise to myself.
I listened to this book when I was having a cancer scare with one of my pets. I thought knowing more about the disease might help me to understand how much treatment to pursue and when to let go. Thankfully, he is still doing well almost a year later.
I thought I knew what cancer was until I read this book, and now I have a much better understanding that cancer is not really one disease, and the idea of finding one "cure" is probably a pipe dream.
The history of the disease and its treatment and research are skillfully written and narrated here. It was hard to think of the first children's cancer wards where almost every child died, and learn that the much better survival rate we have now was built from their suffering.
I was afraid that this book would be a painful slog, but it was quite interesting and hopeful. I highly recommend it.
I'm a geologist and I use Audible books to while away long hours on the road... My pickup truck is my reading room!
Brilliant. A "must" read.
The story is compelling, and Mukherjee brings technical expertise, humanistic sentiment and historical erudition to the subject. He relates the battle against cancer as history rather than popular science, and this reinforces his thesis that cancer is an intimate component of the drama of human life. The physical suffering, the intellectual confusion, the clinical frustrations are all part of the dread and drama that envelopes this disease. Mukherjee brings it all into focus, and does it with clarity and eloquence.
Stephen Hoye's narration is faultless.
I rarely give 5 star ratings, but this book deserves them.
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.
Say something about yourself!
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.
I read science, biographies, histories, mysteries, adventures, thrillers, educationals, linguistics but not no way, not no how, romances.
I'm almost at a loss for what to say about The Emperor of all Maladies. There isn't a moment, not a section, not a thread of this incredible book that feels out of place and isn't riveting. At the same time, emotionally gripping, scientifically enthralling, educational, and just darn good storytelling, Mukherjee takes us through the history of cancer. When did it first appear, who catalogued it, what did they think it was? When cancer was identified how was it treated and who was involved? What is the history of each major cancer and each major treatment? These questions are the heart and soul of this book.
The sections on history, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, prevention, and detection are then punctuated by moments from the author's time treating patients. You get to know people like Carla who has leukemia and you struggle with her as she battles a particularly awful illness. At the heart of this book is the people who have made up the war on cancer and they are drawn with love and precision.
I have rarely been as excited about a book as I have been reading this one.
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.
A REVIEW OF THE AUDIOBOOK VERSION
It is a testament to Mukherjee’s writing that I listened to 20 hours and 49 minutes of this audiobook with relatively little discomfort. Billed as “a biography of cancer,” this book is ambitious. Examining cancer from its earliest appearances in medical history to present day developments, Mukherjee takes his complex and wide-ranging subject and breaks it down into understandable pieces. He also manages to make it personal. Using the case history of one of his patients diagnosed with leukemia as a framing device for the book, Mukherjee never forgets that behind all the technological advances, clinical studies, fundraising efforts, legislation and research are real people fighting for their lives. By putting human stories front and center (just like the Jimmy Fund), Mukherjee makes what could have been a dry and incomprehensible book come alive with stories that each of us can relate to.
I was surprised how fascinating the history of cancer turned out to be. So many scientists, physicians, surgeons and researchers have struggled to understand and “cure” this elusive disease. Hearing about the various breakthroughs that led to our current understanding of cancer was almost like reading a suspense novel. Who would figure out the “cause” of cancer? When would they make a link between smoking and lung cancer? When would surgeons realize that radical mastectomies were not a cure for breast cancer? Aside from the medical issues surrounding cancer research, Mukherjee also spends a fair amount of time on the politics of cancer—from the fundraising and advocacy efforts of Mary Lasker to the radical advocacy of groups like ACT UP. One lesson repeated time and time again is that breakthroughs in cancer treatments often happen because of passionate and dedicated people who won’t take no for an answer.
One downside of reading/listening to this book is that you will come to feel that developing cancer of some form or another is an almost inevitable part of being human. If my understanding of this book is accurate, cancer is essentially a part of each and every one of us—built into our very genes and waiting only to be activated by a combination of triggers that may or may not happen in our lifetime. We can take every precaution we want (not smoking, exercising regularly, eating healthily) but might develop a type of cancer. The good news is that many types of cancer can be successfully treated (even vanquished). The bad news, however, is that a universal cure for cancer is a myth. Like people, cancer has numerous different forms and, in many ways, is adapting and evolving along with our understanding and treatment of it. As upsetting as this may sound, I still think it is best to understand the history and nature of cancer and be ready to fight if and when the time comes. And, with any luck, we’ll each have an oncologist as gifted and humane as Dr. Mukherjee heading up our treatment.
A Word About the Narration: The narrator, Simon Hoye, was certainly given a challenge in reading this book, and he did a pretty good job. However, I felt his voice was ill-suited for such a long listen. I needed a little more color and nuance and expression and often found myself longing for a different narrator.