The Emperor of All Maladies

Last night I finished The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It was an enjoyable read about a rather morbid subject. It was also information dense. A basic comprehension of high school biology (at the very least) is helpful, as is a good dictionary (there will be words you don’t know). Carefully researched, about 40% of the book is carefully cited documentation, which makes the book look longer than it really is.

The book reminded me a little of my Cold War History class back in college: I felt the need to make a time line, collect a list of key terms and acronyms, and make a list of key players.

The subject matter, a biography of cancer, is grim, but presented in such a way that it is not depressing. Mukherjee gives a comprehensive historical overview of the disease, sheds light on misconceptions made both by the public and researchers, covers the evolution of treatment options, along with past and present research.

I have now moved on to Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff.  So far, it is no less dark than a biography of cancer, I am currently reading how the Ptolemies regularly murdered their fellow family members in monstrous power struggles.


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