audio book junkie
It is terribly rare isn't it? An author who is brilliant, technical and can make an educational book on a scientific topic into a read you can't put down. Siddhartha Mukherjee does just that. This book follows the story of cancer from the earliest known cases into the present day. 'The Emperor of All Maladies' is fascinating and eye opening. We should all thank our lucky stars we didn't come down with cancer before the time of Anesthetic. We have come so far in our treatment of cancer but in a way it feels like we are just scratching the surface in treating many forms of this disease. After listening to this book I found myself smarter about cancer. This disease is so prevalent in our world today and I am grateful to be more educated about it. I think everyone should be.
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.
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.
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.
Though the book did get bogged down in a few places, I learned a great deal and between this and a few other books, had my eyes opened to the limitations of medicine.
I read this after Survival of the Sickest by Sharon Moalem, which prepared me to understand sickness (including cancer) in terms of microbes. I followed it with Controlling Cancer, the short TED book by Paul Ewald & Holly Swain Ewald (on Kindle). Between the three of them, I have a completely new picture of today's scourge. Mukherjee does a tremendous job of catching the reader up on the history of the medical science. His explanation of the sequence of scientific discoveries kept my interest and helped me understand where we are today.
I originally didn't want to read this book because I thought it would be depressing; strangely, I finished with a sense of optimism. We've come so far in our understanding of prevention and treatments (Ewald is right that we need to focus funding/research on the former) that I feel like it's possible to advance further. I am less afraid of the disease, while at the same time reconciled to the idea that I may one day encounter it.
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 hesitated on choosing this book, having read reviews stating it was technical and best suited for those with a medical background. I found such to be totally without merit. As long as you know that living things are made up of many cells, and that those living cells divide, you're ready for a great read.
The author presents the history of cancer in a very understandable, and interesting way. From the first mention of the malady in literature, to autopsies on mummified bodies, to accounts of present day patients, you will enjoy and learn.
This book is better than just good, a solid "4+.".Also, the narrator is the best I've listened to. I am a bit deaf, and his articulation was clear, clean and easy to understand.