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
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
"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)
Though I learned a lot from this book, the quotations throughout the text were confusing in the narration. The science was accurate, but some parts were too long-winded.
I really like Stephen Hoye and will listen to nearly anything he reads. I think he does a great job.
I love medicine and the history of medicine. And in terms of that this book hits the mark. My only real negative comment/warning is that this book feels like it was written by someone who is not an author. It seems to jump around a bit too much for me and, as he indicates in the intro, it was began as a journal of his experiences but there are very few and far between.
That being said it is a pretty good recount of the history of cancer. I have to admit though I did have to pick up then put it down a few times. It is too much like a dry College History class to tear through start to finish.
In Mukherjee's text -- which limns the history of cancer with a passionate, attentive eye for all the ironies of our ages-long search to understand its nature and find a cure -- left me feeling like I had finally understood the mad perseverance of Ahab in Moby Dick. Stephen Hoye's reading is perfection. He is my favorite of all Audible's narrators to the extent that I seek books he's narrated out by preference: easy to listen to...intimate, playful and good-humored when it makes sense to be...and with a sense of timing and intonation so perfect that meanings & insights which might otherwise go unnoticed jump out at you.
This was really three books in one, each fascinating in its own way. The first is a history of cancer (calling it a biography is apt), going back to earliest recorded history. The second is an accurate yet entertaining description of the science behind the discovery of cancer treatment, particularly chemotherapy. The Third delves into the political intrigue behind the war against cancer, and the influence of politics, money and personal glory.
A great read!
I love the topic, and it is fascinating, but perhaps due to the narrator I found myself not as excited about it as I thought I would be. I had to listen to other stuff in between and it felt a bit like a chore. It is not like other books I have listened to that I just can't put down. I'd check it out from the library first and see if it interests you before committing to buying it.
Daily commute and frequent travel predispose to solitude on the move, a condition treatable by a good audiobook. Addicted to audiobooks...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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