Read This Book
I have never before written about a book, but I just finished reading The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. For several months, I had resisted picking it up as I thought the last thing I wanted to do was read more about cancer. Now I am trying to persuade all of my colleagues to read it, too. There is a lot of science in it, so, depending on your interest in genes and mutations and cellular pathways, you may want to skim those parts. The fascinating stories of medicine and research and people through the years, the intricate webs of connections, the ethics and philosophy and marvel of nature make it a stunning read. You are left with hope.
Here is a review from Publisher's Weekly:
Starred Review. Mukherjee's debut book is a sweeping epic of obsession, brilliant researchers, dramatic new treatments, euphoric success and tragic failure, and the relentless battle by scientists and patients alike against an equally relentless, wily, and elusive enemy. From the first chemotherapy developed from textile dyes to the possibilities emerging from our understanding of cancer cells, Mukherjee shapes a massive amount of history into a coherent story with a roller-coaster trajectory: the discovery of a new treatment--surgery, radiation, chemotherapy--followed by the notion that if a little is good, more must be better, ending in disfiguring radical mastectomy and multidrug chemo so toxic the treatment ended up being almost worse than the disease. The first part of the book is driven by the obsession of Sidney Farber and philanthropist Mary Lasker to find a unitary cure for all cancers. (Farber developed the first successful chemotherapy for childhood leukemia.) The last and most exciting part is driven by the race of brilliant, maverick scientists to understand how cells become cancerous. Each new discovery was small, but as Mukherjee, a Columbia professor of medicine, writes, "Incremental advances can add up to transformative changes." Mukherjee's formidable intelligence and compassion produce a stunning account of the effort to disrobe the "emperor of maladies." (Nov.) (c)