The Emperor Of All Maladies

The Emperor Of All Maladies

A Biography Of Cancer

Book - 2010
Average Rating:
Rate this:

Comments (26)

Add a Comment
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.

Dec 29, 2012

As a History of Science book, it is quite thorough, interesting, and well written. As a cell and molecular biologist I was fascinated by some of the metaphor used to explain, for example, signal transduction pathways to a lay audience. Science writing of high calibre, as the Pulitzer prize would suggest.
I think a person going through cancer treatment could educate themselves in the field quite thoroughly, if they had the courage to read this. There has been much progress in treatment in the last twenty years. Some of the earlier cancer treatments are described as reckless and brutal by the author, who is an oncologist himself.

jeanner222 Oct 12, 2012

The subtitle of this massive tome says it all: a biography of cancer. Mukerjee’s research begins with early cases of cancer and doctors and researchers trying to figure out what cancer is. The volume ends with information about cancer drugs and the latest discoveries in cancer research.

Cancer, as a disease, is baffling. Mukerjee guides the reader through years of research and discovery. Highlights include: the discovery of the link between smoking and lung cancer, the origin of Pap smears, and the breakthrough idea of prevention/origin of mammography. The author takes the reader through the evolution of radiation, chemo, and cancer surgery. Above all things, Mukerjee clearly explains the long and difficult struggle to understand and cure this deadly disease.

I enjoyed reading this, though it took me a long time. I could only read so much in one sitting, especially when the writing is quite scientific. This is an excellent read for anyone who has ever wondered, “When will they find a cure for cancer?”

Sep 13, 2012

This is a very informative book about the history of cancer that is fascinating and insightful. This is not a dry clinical book. It includes many case studies that add a human touch to this excellent book.

Jul 03, 2012

Fantastic in-depth look into cancer, showing the similarities and differences between seemingly disparate ailments. The in-depth knowledge brought on by the author, a medical doctor, was very helpful in understanding the science behind it all.

Jun 07, 2012

This book was truly amazing. I admit, it was strange to read a type of biography of cancer, where a disease is personified as a powerful, nearly sentient being. The author seemed to portray more awe of cancer than disgust. His passion for oncology was contagious.

Feb 19, 2012

An excellent read. I thought it might have been a dry read, but Mukherjee keeps the audience captivated with side stories and interresting facts and trivia.


trully a great detailed biography of cancer indeed. I learned so much about it.

ANNE E CROLY Sep 26, 2011

This is an easily understandable of a confusing illness that is even more valuable now (Sept, '11) with the advent of new drugs to treat cance.

Sep 26, 2011

Perfect combination of science and literature. An enlightening "story" of devotion, struggle, and intellect of doctors to cure cancer. A fantastic read for both the scientific and non-scientific. A true jem of the 21th century.

Sep 06, 2011

Excellent book.
A detailed, yet easy-to-understand, history of the disease and the way researchers and doctors have fought it.

Aug 18, 2011

I've lost three close relatives to cancer (mother-in-law, mother, wife, in that order). Some of the treatments available now weren't even dreamed of when the first of these deaths occurred in 1990. And even cutting edge treatment is sometimes ineffective, as the third death, in 2008 demonstrates. In between, as this excellent book explains in mostly non-technical language, we've learned an amazing amount about what cancer is -- essentially an accumulation of mutations in our own cells that drive them to grow and reproduce without end.

The book covers over 4,500 years of human experience with cancer, but focuses on the past 250 or so, when the greatest advances have been made, from surgery, to radiation, to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy, perhaps the most potent treatment, has changed radically, from drugs with horrible side effects that killed healthy cells along with cancer cells, to synthetic molecules that are custom designed to attack certain types of cancer. Many cancers have gone from lethal to chronic.

There is sometimes an overwhelming wealth of detail, but overall the book remains very readable, even as it necessarily becomes more technical as the research moves into the genetics of cancer in the past 20 years or so. If you can remember your high school biology, you'll get more out of this book.

Aug 15, 2011

This easy-to-read book outlines the history of chemotherapy, with particular emphasis on the development of the treatment protocol for childhood leukemia.

ColemanRidge Jul 01, 2011

This history of cancer and cancer research reads like a horror story spanning hundreds of years. The monster is infinitely tenacious and adaptable, and the heroes tend to become monstrous themselves in the course of the struggle. This latter theme is particularly evident in the sections on heroic breast surgery and heroic chemotherapy. Aside from its considerable literary merit, the book brings one up to date on what is now known about cancers, their causes, and their treatment.

Apr 07, 2011

An illuminating look at cancer research and treatment over the last century. A bit technical at times, but full of fascinating information.

Mar 25, 2011

Siddhartha Mukherjee's book deals with the "biography" of canacer.

He desribes the epic struggles to control, cre, and conquer the dreaded disease.

He is a physician, reseracher, and award-winning science writer. A Rhodes scholar; Graduate of Stanford and Oxford Universities and the Harvard Medical School.

1-25 of 26 items

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings

To Top