Review: The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A truly beautiful book about what is certainly a terrible and often terrifying collection of illnesses. Our family, like almost all families, has wrestled with cancer and wrestled with the scary and frequently devastating treatments that hope to kill the cancer before they kill the patient. This book provides a rich and illuminating context for those struggles, giving a palpable sense of the diseases and how our understanding and approaches have changed and how they’ve stayed the same. Mukherjee’s story telling is deft and compelling, sharing a complex and often very technical history in a way that remains personal, compelling, and accessible. It at times borders on the poetic, but without ever becoming sentimental or maudlin.

While this is technically about cancer, the book provides valuable insight into the complexities of medical research, whether scientific, mathematical, political, or social. We’ve made huge strides in so many areas of medicine in the last two centuries, but we rarely appreciate the oft tortured, surprising, and complex channels wended along the way. Yet to understand cancer and cancer treatment, and important challenges such as antibiotic resistance, and drug R&D, funding, testing and approval, it’s critical that we have this sort of context.

So most highly recommend; absolutely one of the best books I’ve read.

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