Monday, June 27, 2011

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

An excellent and interesting ‘biography’ of cancer.

A friend did a succinct and informative review, so I have copied that below.
Though at 592 pages (or 21 hours of audio, as I experienced it) The Emperor of All Maladies may seem daunting, it will be well worth your time if you are at all interested in the topic. I absolutely loved it. This “biography of cancer” is well written, engaging, and extremely informative on a broad spectrum of factors relating to cancer and human society’s struggle with it, from the point at which it appears in the historical record up until today.
In addition to presenting a fascinating medical history, this book really showcases the interplay between research, clinical practice, corporate and political interests, activism, and patients themselves. It also delves into the lives and careers of many pivotal figures in the endeavour. Importantly, the author does not shy away from covering the unfortunate turns as well as the breakthroughs, thereby exposing the ethical issues that inevitably arise when imperfect humans confront matters of life and death with incomplete knowledge. Perhaps the most sure sign of the book’s success: I again find myself wondering why I am not pursuing a career in medical science.
I would like to add that in addition to enjoying the various forays into people, politics, medicine, tobacco and HIV, I felt that the primary benefit of the work was a greater understanding of how things have come to be and how science has progressed. Once upon a time it was thought four humors caused illness; now we know there are cells and genes, and various biological molecules. The randomized controlled design of scientific experiments is less than 100 years old. At one point it was thought nicotine was good for you. It is fascinating to think about all the things that had to happen to have things as they currently are. The book suggests such analysis throughout but also more specifically near the end.

I highly recommend it.


Post a Comment

<< Home