I was intrigued when I first ran across the title The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. How do you write a biography of a disease? What elevated cancer to the level of emperor in the author's mind? When I heard the news that the book had won a Pulitzer Prize this year for general non-fiction I decided to give it a try. What a fascinating read! The book traces the history of the knowledge and treatment of cancer from ancient times to the present day. Although some poignant stories are briefly presented, the book reads more like a detective story than a biography. The mystery to be solved is the riddle of cancer and finding a cure is the quest of centuries of trial and error by medical researchers. It is fascinating to see the painstaking work as well as the imagination and luck that brought us to today's treatments. Mukherjee, a professor of Medicine at Columbia University, makes the science accessible. The book is a biography in the sense that the people who were instrumental in the fight against cancer come alive. The inability of science to find a magic bullet cure for this insidious and heartbreaking disease certainly makes cancer seem deserving of the title Emperor. I did feel that the book ended on a hopeful note as new treatments are devised based on the mapping of the human genome and the discovery of new drugs among other advances. Highly recommended.
Submitted by Patricia D. @ Central