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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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  •  
    M. Burlingame 01-17-11 Member Since 2007
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    "A great listen!"

    The reader does an excellent job on this very fine work of literature. I started reading the paper copy, but enjoyed the narration better. Dr. Mukherjee should be in line for a Pulitzer Prize for this timely book about a raging epidemic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julianne Kensington, CA, United States 01-04-11
    Julianne Kensington, CA, United States 01-04-11 Member Since 2008
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    9
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    "Brilliant - but maybe a little too much so"

    I found Siddhartha Mukherjee's writing so poetic and compelling that I had trouble telling when his preface quotes ended and when his chapters began. I'll confess though that I lost steam when he launched into the section on cancer cell biology. I have a background in healthcare operations, so while I can lap up History of Science writing like water in the desert, the sections on oncogenesis left me dry.

    Still, the fact that Dr. Mukherjee is a brilliant physician AND writes soul-shatteringly beautiful prose strikes me as one of those strange (unfair) lumping of talent onto a single being. Like, Tom Brady being gorgeous AND a great quarterback.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Yoo-Win United States 09-08-12
    Yoo-Win United States 09-08-12
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    "Tedious"

    The book is laden with heaps of unnecessary historical facts, poorly edited (as you will find yourself reading story about some patient then about another, then back). It turns out that I am not the intended audience for the book, it doesn't seem to add value to general public, more for researchers.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James S. Cox 06-23-11 Member Since 2003
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    "Weighty Tome"

    This book has everything you would ever want to know about cancer and more. I am a physician and found it exceedingly detailed, full of facts, and sometimes hard to follow. If it were not being read to me, I am sure that I would never have finished it. That being said, I still would recommend it for anyone with an interest in cancer. By the end, you will be all too well informed...and probably very upset.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bobby Antioch, CA, United States 05-11-11
    Bobby Antioch, CA, United States 05-11-11
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    "Way way too long"

    A very interesting topic. I am a surgeon who operates on cancer patients frequently. The useful information could have been delivered in one fifth of the time. Good narration. I listened to every word but wished for a more streamlined product. Low rating only because of the lack of economy in delivering the information.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vicki Keizer, OR, United States 01-16-11
    Vicki Keizer, OR, United States 01-16-11
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    "Should be a text book"

    With the level of detail and the pace of this book, it should be a text book. It reviews the history of cancer research in excruciating detail, citing researchers and biochemical explanations. I had thought that it included more stories of how individuals coped with cancer and cancer treatment, but these are few and far between.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    tom CA, United States 03-07-12
    tom CA, United States 03-07-12
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    "boring"
    Any additional comments?

    If you have any scientific training or knowledge, book is disappointing and offers no new surprises.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeanne 10-31-11
    Jeanne 10-31-11 Member Since 2006
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    "Timely information"

    I bought this book because cancer has recently touched my family. This historical and scientific overview had just the right 'tone' to answer my many questions while giving me a realistic yet hopeful outlook.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Giri College Station, TX, United States 10-24-11
    Giri College Station, TX, United States 10-24-11
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    "Tons of information, but a bit tedious in places"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Probably - likely to my doctor friends. I went with the impression (based on interviews I heard and reviews I read) that there would be a lot of the 'natural history' of cancer - how cancers are and how they differ and how they do what they do. But I came away with just a history of cancer, and specifically about how cancer therapy came to be. A bit disappointed by it. I felt I did not learn much about cancer in the end.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Siddhartha Mukherjee? Why or why not?

    Depends - will need some careful consideration


    Did Stephen Hoye do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    Yes.


    Was The Emperor of All Maladies worth the listening time?

    About half of it.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Anacortes, WA, United States 04-09-11
    Carol Anacortes, WA, United States 04-09-11 Member Since 2010
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    "So informative......"

    I'm a sucker for any book that rates as one of the best books of the year. So, I gave this one a shot. It's very interesting and so well written. I learned a lot.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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