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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

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Igor R. Efimov St. Louis, MO, USA 10-05-11
    Igor R. Efimov St. Louis, MO, USA 10-05-11 Member Since 2014

    Daily commute and frequent travel predispose to solitude on the move, a condition treatable by a good audiobook. Addicted to audiobooks...

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    "Outstanding..."

    I am a cardiovascular physiologist and love my field of research, but reading this book I realized that if I had read this book in high school it could have changed my life and made me a cancer biologist/physician. Fascinating story, deep and exciting science, excellent historical line and compassionate physician's account of numerous patients saved and lost to this dreaded disease. The author is blessed with quite rate selection of talents - top notch researcher, good doctor, and outstanding citizen of the republic of letters. Book brings hope that we might be close to beat cancer in the next few decades.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    David G. Los Angeles, CA 09-30-11
    David G. Los Angeles, CA 09-30-11
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    "Slightly geeky, but very interesting!"

    Just finished this book, after putting off this read since it's release date. The book is well-written and very informative. Everyone surely has a different standpoint on why they would consider this book, and mine was purely intellectual interest. The book plows through the history and evolution of oncology in all it's aspects; all while keeping the diction at level non-medical professionals can understand. I highly recommend this if you have any interest in oncology or have been affected by cancer in any way.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    IceMan 09-25-11
    IceMan 09-25-11 Member Since 2001
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    "Easy to Understand"

    For someone who never had a biology course (I am an engineer), it was easy to follow and understand. However, given the technical subject material, I found it a little long.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 09-25-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Thorough History"

    Wonderfully articulate, Mukherjee provides a full and detailed 360-degree view of the disease, why it happens, and the perennial search for a cure. Reminescent of "And the Band Played On" in its completeness and it's compassion. After listening to this, cancer -- although still fearsome -- is fascinating in its persistence against eradication.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adrienne Chicago, IL, United States 09-23-11
    Adrienne Chicago, IL, United States 09-23-11 Member Since 2009
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    "A Definite read!"

    This book is a definite must! As someone who is in the "cancer business" I was fascinated and intrigued by this book. It was very interesting and explained clearly how tricky this insidious disease can be, and why we will probably never really conquer it. The writing was insightful and enjoyable and the stories were heartwarming. This was balanced quite evenly with the stories of the failures and frustrations of the author as he confronted his nemesis. This was all told in an interesting and easy to follow manner. I am recommending it as a top five for the year!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Grinton Chicago, Il 09-23-11
    A. Grinton Chicago, Il 09-23-11 Member Since 2009
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    "A Definite read!"

    This book is a definite must! As someone who is in the "cancer business" I was fascinated and intrigued by this book. It was very interesting and explained clearly how tricky this insidious disease can be, and why we will probably never really conquer it. The writing was insightful and enjoyable and the stories were heartwarming. This was balanced quite evenly with the stories of the failures and frustrations of the author as he confronted his nemesis. This was all told in an interesting and easy to follow manner. I am recommending it as a top five for the year!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua 09-20-11
    Joshua 09-20-11 Member Since 2010

    long commute=audible reading time

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    "Compelling and Thought-altering History of Science"

    Great story if you like history of science. Very instructive and compelling look back at how scientific framing of questions and research affected treatment solutions for cancer.
    Good story, important lessons about personal, political and even conceptual bias as it plays out in scientific endeavors.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Don Fresno, CA, United States 09-18-11
    Don Fresno, CA, United States 09-18-11
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    "This should be required reading!"

    This book is fantastic.
    It is not dry, boring, slow, which you might expect for a subject like cancer.
    It is technical, but only so much as a laymen needs to understand the basics.
    It is so well organized that it easy to see the progression of our research and understanding of the disease. This is the best part of the book, because this could easily become so overwhelming that you could get lost. Siddhartha makes the book right here.
    It is so informative. I now understand the current theory on the cause of cancer and understand what I can and cannot do to protect myself and my family.
    It is moving. Siddhartha has done a magnificent job of conveying the hopes, fears, excitement, disappointment, death, and life of the people in this book. I found myself connected to the people and patients.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Mayo Montreal, Quebec, Canada 09-12-11
    Mayo Montreal, Quebec, Canada 09-12-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Must Read"

    This book is a must read for all. Scientifically fascinating this tale is told in a manner understanable and of interest to all. For lay and professional alike, far from depressing, this book reads like a detective story the ending of which is still being written. Kudos to the author.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Barnett 09-04-11
    Barnett 09-04-11
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    "A must read!"

    This book tells the history, or as the authors states, the biography of cancer. It is an amazing book and I listened to it at ever quiet moment I could find. I usually only listen to books to and from work...40 minute commute. I found myself listening to it on the way to the grocery store and every other moment in the car. It is a great book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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