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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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Performance
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  •  
    Ken Kleinman Arlington, MA United States 08-18-13
    Ken Kleinman Arlington, MA United States 08-18-13 Member Since 2004
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    "Trivia, magnified"

    I confess that I did not get through this. (Second book in 10 years, and I listened to all of "Truman".) I have listened to about 5 hours, and have heard the names of 30-40 people who worked in some lab or another, or had some since-discounted theory about cancer. Why have I heard these names? No one knows.

    The reader is adequate, though some names and terms are mispronounced and I can hear him trying desperately to inject some drama into the dry sentences that should have been edited away.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zella Bea Seattle WA 02-06-12
    Zella Bea Seattle WA 02-06-12 Listener Since 2010
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    "zzzzzzzzzzz"
    Would you try another book from Siddhartha Mukherjee and/or Stephen Hoye?

    I might try another book by Mukherjee. I can't blame him for the arrogant narration.


    Were the concepts of this book easy to follow, or were they too technical?

    The concepts were too political and simplistic. I am not a medical doctor and yet I was insulted by the perspective.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Stephen Hoye?

    Absolutely anyone.


    Do you think The Emperor of All Maladies needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Heavens NO ! Unless someone else writes and narrates it.


    Any additional comments?

    I optimistically purchased this recording after reading several reviews. The narrator's arrogance ruined the book for me. That is too bad. A meaningful topic that deserves better treatment. I suspect it was not the subject matter that doomed the book for me but the narration which put me to sleep. The subject matter should be far more accessible than its treatment here. How unfortunate.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nicole Minneapolis, MN, United States 11-29-11
    Nicole Minneapolis, MN, United States 11-29-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Couldnt sit through it"

    I was really interested in the topic and was fascinated by the complete history of cancer turned into a novel. HOWEVER the language & vocabulary are written in the perspective of a Doctor (with a giant stick up his ***). The sentences run on and the medical vocabulary is never explained. It is more like doctors talking to doctors, not seemingly created for a wide audience. Additionally the book jumps around a lot. The subject matter is a very emotional thing for people but the narrator has a dry egotistical voice.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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    Robinson Montclair, NJ 10-21-11
    Robinson Montclair, NJ 10-21-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Historical Medicine"

    I was excited to hear this book after hearing Siddhartha Mukherjee interviewed on various radio programs. He is a warm engaging speaker and I was disappointed when the reader was not equally so. It is a difficult topic to listen to but interesting. I wish more care had been given to selecting a reader to really bring the topic to life.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wendy Albuquerque 10-05-11
    Wendy Albuquerque 10-05-11 Member Since 2009

    book addict

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    "Fascinating"

    This is a riveting book on a disease that will effect just about all of us, directly or indirectly. Dr. Mukherjee has brought to life the doctors, patients, scientists, and politicians who have played a role in the history of cancer treatment. I found the last chapters on the biology of cancer particularly engrossing. My only criticism is that the reader's voice is a bit monotonous.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LB 06-14-11
    LB 06-14-11 Member Since 2005
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    "So-so"

    While this book seems to have been well researched and it is well written, it just wasn't as compelling as I had hoped, especially given the interesting author interviews I had heard on National Public Radio. I often found my mind wandering as I listened because the tale wasn't captivating. I learned some things but ultimately was glad when the book was over so I could move on to something else. Although other reviewers objected to the narrator, I thought he was fine.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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    smith norwich, vt, United States 05-03-11
    smith norwich, vt, United States 05-03-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Pretty dry stuff"

    Unless you are interested in the history of the scientific research this is pretty boring. I am stunned that it's average rating is so high.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karoline Caldwell, NJ, United States 12-22-10
    Karoline Caldwell, NJ, United States 12-22-10 Member Since 2005
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    "not the empowering info I had hoped for"

    I was hoping that this book would give me empowering perspective on this most feared illness. But I found it to be a very lurid description of one physician's journey. No revelations here.

    0 of 8 people found this review helpful
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