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The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer | [Siddhartha Mukherjee]

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

Written by cancer physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies is a stunning combination of medical history, cutting-edge science, and narrative journalism that transforms our understanding of cancer and much of the world around us. Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist's precision, a novelist's richness of detail, a historian's range, and a biographer's passion.
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Audible Editor Reviews

In 2003 Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, having completed his residency and graduate training in cancer immunology, moved to advanced training in medical oncology: cancer medicine. The young doctor and former Rhodes Scholar began taking notes for what he “had initially envisioned being a journal of that year — a view from the trenches of cancer treatment”. Mukherjee went a considerably more arduous route, eventually developing his journal draft into this superbly written, profoundly moving, and thoroughly compelling book. Mukherjee, who is currently an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a cancer physician at Columbia University Medical Center, is richly endowed with a truly masterful and creative command of the English language. His highly detailed, comprehensive narrative is, in a word, brilliant. With such a richly potent text before him, narrator Stephen Hoye is at his descriptive and expressive best. With robustly articulated pacing, Hoye moves Mukherjee’s stellar history as biography forward, keying into the expressive, poetic cadences of The Emperor of All Maladies. Hoye, joining forces with the author, consistently lights up the literary neurons throughout his performance.

The charged-up literary neurons is no metaphor. A 4,000-year history of cancer written by a medical doctor, delivered as a 20+ hour audiobook: well, its sounds quite daunting and dry. But The Emperor of All Maladies is the exact opposite. It is great storytelling. And Mukherjee’s craft and creative art of writing, along with Hoye’s superb narration, shape this otherwise difficult subject into a highly informative, great listening experience. —David Chasey

Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 2011

Written by cancer physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies is a stunning combination of medical history, cutting-edge science, and narrative journalism that transforms our understanding of cancer and much of the world around us. Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist's precision, a novelist's richness of detail, a historian's range, and a biographer's passion. The story of cancer is one of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, arrogance, paternalism, and misperception, all leveraged against a disease that, just decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out "war against cancer." It's a story of science and scientists, of centuries of discoveries, of setbacks and victories and deaths, told through the eyes of Mukherjee's predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary.

From the Persian Queen Atossa, who instructed her Greek slave to cut off her malignant breast, to the radical surgeries of the 19th century, to the first recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy, to Mukherjee's own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is a story of people---and their families---who soldier through toxic, bruising, and draining regimens to survive and to increase the store of human knowledge.

Riveting and magisterial, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments and offers a bold new perspective on the way doctors, scientists, philosophers, and lay people have observed and understood the human body for millennia.

©2010 Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D. (P)2010 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"An inspiring account of a very personal battle against 'the plague of our generation." (Kirkus)

“Mukherjee's sweeping biography of cancer stretches from its earliest mentions in the historical record to the latest in treatments and covers many advancements and missteps along the way…Hoye presents even the more complicated medical procedures with a clarity of speech that allows for easy understanding by any listener, even one not well versed in the science of cancer. This is an ambitious work but one that is very accessible and is made even more so by Hoye's narration.” (Audiofile)

"Mukherjee recounts cancer’s first known literary reference—hence its birth, so to speak—in the teachings of the Egyptian physician Imhotep in the twenty-fifth century BCE, in which it is clear that Imhotep possessed no tools with which to treat what appears to be breast cancer…this is not a posthumous biography, but it is nonetheless a surprisingly accessible and encouraging narrative." (Booklist, Starred Review)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Paul Krasner 11-25-10 Member Since 2005

    I like books that have interesting characters and easy to follow plots. For example, Cormoran Strike, is a great character for me.

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    "Spectacular!"

    Simultaneously horrifying and compelling. How could a book about such a horrible disease be such a page turner but it is. The story is riddled with personal anecdotes and stories about how the treatment of cancer progressed step by painful step. Learning how cancer cells work was a revelation but not for the unscientific minded. The review of transcription and how retroviruses work can be daunting but worth the attention. The fact that at any moment the genes of one cell can be influenced by various external factors, change their configuration, free itself from the normal constraints of the body and go wild, is a sobering thought. The thought I am left with is that these cancer cells are like evil dopplegangers lurking in the shadows to take over my body. If you are going to listen to one non-fiction book this year, this should be it.

    63 of 63 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J Summit, NJ 12-28-10
    J Summit, NJ 12-28-10 Member Since 2005

    Reader & Listener

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    "Insightful & Illuminating"

    I am in awe of how the author made this such a captivating work--He gives so many perspectives on cancer: The personal (his own patients), anthropological (evidence in ancient cultures), historical, and political, with current research and some conjecture about future directions in research and treatment. The fact that it became an instant bestseller can partly be attributed to how many peoples' lives are affected by this disease, but also by what a brilliant book this is.
    Audio version is well read.

    21 of 21 people found this review helpful
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    Crystal Mount Pleasant, SC, United States 12-20-10
    Crystal Mount Pleasant, SC, United States 12-20-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Excellent review and update on the story of cancer"

    I am a physician and purchased this book thinking that it might be an interesting read. I had read an excerpt, and recognized the author to be a physician who sincerely cares about his patients. I expected to find an empathetic story of suffering and pain. There was some of that, but there was also much about the legacy of cancer, its history, our feeble efforts to treat it and what may lie ahead.
    This book is well written and would appeal to those medically trained or not.

    41 of 42 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Italy 04-01-11
    Michael Italy 04-01-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Been there"

    Having experience the death of our 9 year old to kidney cancer I have read A LOT on the subject. This book is absolutely 5 stars, the author tackles a complicated subject, weaves the technical science, historical timeline and array orcharacters together is an very gettable and captivating manner. This book felt accurate, sincere and left me with a sense of informational empowerment!

    39 of 40 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine Bryn Mawr, PA, United States 12-28-10
    Catherine Bryn Mawr, PA, United States 12-28-10 Member Since 2005
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    "deserves to be on the 2010 "10 Best" lists"

    A fascinating story that unfolds with great detail and sympathy and plot and character: on short, a wonderful "listen," all related in in clear, uncomplicated prose that is totally comprehensible to someone without medical training. Wonderfully read by Stephen Hoye. Not one minute is dull...it is the audio equivalent of a page turner.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elisabeth Durham, NC, United States 10-16-12
    Elisabeth Durham, NC, United States 10-16-12 Member Since 2008
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    "A Big Commitment"

    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.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
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    Jasbir s bisla 04-17-11 Member Since 2008
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    "Complicated topic made easy"

    A complicated topic of cancer made sounderstandable-- I could not even imagine.
    I will be on look out for new books from Mr Mukherjee .

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
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    Barbara Buzzards Bay, MA, United States 12-10-10
    Barbara Buzzards Bay, MA, United States 12-10-10
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    "Should be Required Reading for all People"

    The best book I have ever read or listened to on this subject, or actually any non fiction subject. The writing is exceptional and the narration flawless. If you have any concerns or interest in your health this book is a must!

    24 of 25 people found this review helpful
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    Jock Bovington 12-23-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Excellent Science History"

    Both technical and non-technical listeners will find this an interesting for it's chronological account of he advances in Cancer Research. This is informative and speaks a great deal to our political and social biases and assumptions as they pertain to scientific research.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
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    glamazon The Coast of Rhode Island 12-12-10
    glamazon The Coast of Rhode Island 12-12-10 Member Since 2003

    glam

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    "Yes, Riveting!"

    I completely agree with all the other enthusiastic reviewers. This book gives and gives and I find myself rereading sections and absorbing more and more.

    The ending is climactic, dramatic, like the ending of an opera or symphony, and the narrator is pitch-perfect, striking just the right tone, especially towards the latter half of the book, I guess warming to his subject.

    I'm going to look for more from both this writer and narrator.

    25 of 27 people found this review helpful
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