Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Detailed, Informative “Biography” of a Monstrous Illness

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner, 2010, 592pp.)

Cancer is one of America’s most feared illnesses. It attacks suddenly and indiscriminately, and many of the treatments for it are just as deadly as the affliction itself. Mukherjee covers both the social and medical history of this subject. Up until the latter half of the twentieth century, cancer survival was seen as a battle to be fought in private. During the 1950s, as the author informs us, the very word “cancer” was considered too indecent to appear in print. A cancer physician himself, Mukherjee examines the illness not so much from a clinical perspective, but from a “human” one. How long has it been around? More importantly, how can it be cured? These are only a few of the questions that the author tackles in language that is both informative and easy to understand.

Click on cover for image source.

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