The Emperor of All Maladies

The Emperor of All Maladies

A Biography of Cancer

Book - 2010
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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a documentary from Ken Burns on PBS, this New York Times bestseller is "an extraordinary achievement" ( The New Yorker )--a magnificent, profoundly humane "biography" of cancer--from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.

Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist's precision, a historian's perspective, and a biographer's passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with--and perished from--for more than five thousand years.

The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out "war against cancer." The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist.

Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer.
ISBN: 9781439107959
Characteristics: xiv, 571 pages, [8] pages of plates :,illustrations, portraits ;,25 cm.


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Mar 22, 2021

A very readable and understandable biography of cancer and the attempts to cure it. Provides a useful historical context for the disease and helps one understand the level of biological and medical knowledge needed to provide effective treatments.

Mar 15, 2021

March 2021: This is the most compelling nonfiction book I have ever read. I initially read most of it several years ago, but didn't complete the final chapters as my brain was already overwhelmed. So I started this time at Part Six: The Fruits of Long Endeavors. Personal experiences provided a framework for applying myself and better understanding this last portion of the book as it described gene sequencing & targeted therapies.
The author is a master: an historian, a clinician and a researcher, and a compassionate human. The interplay of historical events with his personal experiences and those of his patients bring a perspective that ties the science and the emotion together.
The final section, Atossa's War, is a captivating time sequence consolidating and condensing the essence of the previously presented material.
Insights on human resilience and adaptation and determination regarding scientific pursuits are scattered throughout the book giving much on which to reflect.

May 25, 2020

Author did a phenomenal job regarding topic research, showed great personal interest and expertise. It was an eye opening learning experience and highly disturbing read for me, personally. Wouldn’t suggest to read it during COVID-19 at all!

Jan 17, 2019

Interesting "biography" that attracted by a lot of highbrow ,but sometimes flawed characters (scientists), amoral character (tobacco executives), corporate (greedy to indifferent) to the victims themselves seeking mythical magic bullet.
Engrossing book on disease that more slippery & resilient or on doctor & patients forced to redefine what is victory conditions.

When I pick up a book that won a Pulitzer, I expected to read good writing. Having said that, I was somewhat apprehensive at the thought of reading a treatise on cancer. No such need. As author Siddhartha Mukherjee promises, he has treated cancer not as a thing (a disease) but as a person – hence the subtitle. That you want to keep turning pages until you get to the end is a testament to the effective treatment Mukherjee affords this serious and painful subject. It is obvious that he is an expert in his field, a good writer, and – above all – a wonderful “explainer.” (submitted by library customer MA)

May 31, 2017

Read this 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner for General Non-Fiction more than two years ago but both comments and quotes were gone. Agree with most reviews that this book is a definitive read on cancer history and current research when it was published in 2010. Goodreads has posted many pages, 8 and counting, of quotes worthwhile to look up for reference:

Nov 17, 2016


Jun 24, 2016

This book is fascinating. It's extremely well researched and written.

Apr 07, 2015

I found this book fascinating, but when I watched the documentary I was chilled by how little mention of cancer prevention there was. Could I suggest a prescription for the author and Ken Burns? Read T. Colin Campbell's 'The China Study' if we know that the Standard American Diet (SAD) causes disease, why isn't advertizing for processed foods banned the way smoking ads are? A great opportunity to advocate for longer, healthier lives through healthy diet and exercise was missed here.

Aug 31, 2014

I have cancer and found the book caring and thoughtful. Lots of information about how we are lucky to be past the worst of the beginning, and now in the very beginning of rational treatment. I found that it read like a novel. Great book.

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Mar 15, 2021

"Death in old age is inevitable, but death before old age is not." Richard Doll, the epidemiologist who connected smoking to cancer & other health problems. p.462
p. 465: - we might as well focus on prolonging life rather than eliminating death. This War on Cancer may best be "won" by redefining victory.

May 31, 2017

My old quotes had disappeared but noticed that goodreads already has 8 full pages of quotes:

In addition, had collected some quotes from Ken Burn's 2015 documentary program "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies" which was based on this book. If interested:

Dec 31, 2016



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Jul 15, 2016

A really, really long book about the history of cancer. It's well written and interesting BUT VERY INTENSE. I would really like this book if I could read a couple of chapters, put it down and then read a couple more chapters in a month. It's got very specialized vocab that I don't always understand, but even so, I really know much more about cancer than I ever thought I could learn.

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