The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

by Siddhartha Mukherjee | Science |
ISBN: 1439107955 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 1/15/2015
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3 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Thursday, January 15, 2015
I got this fair-condition hardcover at the Used Book Superstore in Burlington, MA. It's a "biography of cancer", from the earliest records of its symptoms through the many trials and errors regarding treatment, and up to the many and varied modern methods. There are personal anecdotes from the author's own practice, and historical ones that illustrate just how nasty a foe cancer could be...

Much of the book centers on the efforts of doctors and researchers such as Sidney Farber (founder of the organization that has become the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) and Emil Frei, and includes an account of the origins of the Jimmy Fund. (For many years, every time I went to a movie theater there'd be Jimmy Fund volunteers on hand to pass the hat for donations; I don't know if they still do that, but the fund has supported research and care of patients and their families for decades now)

I learned a lot from this book, both about the history of cancer and about the long, painful process of working out how to treat it - work that's still ongoing, now that it's all too clear that "cancer" is an umbrella term, and different types of cancers require very different handling. The efforts of the doctors and researchers, the theories brought up and shot down, the frustration when an apparent cure either failed outright or only worked for very specific cases, the heartbreak when patients - especially the very young - succumbed... It's all here.

There are chapters on specific types of cancer, including one that opens with the history of the "climbing boys" - chimney sweeps who had a very high incidence of scrotal cancer - leading to a discussion of environmental factors and cancer. Changing methods of cleaning chimneys - and a reduction in fireplaces overall - made that particular plague go away, but of course there are ongoing battles regarding other carcinogens.

Quite fascinating!

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Sunday, June 28, 2015

Released 4 yrs ago (7/8/2015 UTC) at Nashua, New Hampshire USA

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I'm putting this book in the Medicine Chest bookbox. Hope someone enjoys it!

Journal Entry 3 by wingNancyNovawing at Lansdale, Pennsylvania USA on Saturday, July 18, 2015
Taking from the Medicine Chest bookbox. Quite a tome, so will take a while to read it!

Journal Entry 4 by wingNancyNovawing at Lansdale, Pennsylvania USA on Thursday, June 27, 2019
medicine bookbox; fascinating for such a difficult subject. Cancer really is a suite of diseases and more prominent now because other diseases, like flu and TB aren't killing us any more.

Journal Entry 5 by wingNancyNovawing at ~ RABCK ~, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- USA on Thursday, June 27, 2019

Released 5 mos ago (6/27/2019 UTC) at ~ RABCK ~, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- USA

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moving along to another bookcrosser!

Journal Entry 6 by wingMmeClintonwing at South Berwick, Maine USA on Friday, July 12, 2019
This lovely hardcover arrived in Maine today, and even though it is large and intimidating, I think I will like the reading of it. Thanks for thinking of me again,, NancyNova!!

Journal Entry 7 by wingMmeClintonwing at South Berwick, Maine USA on Wednesday, August 28, 2019
I am down to the final days of the local library challenge and will have finished 3 bingo rows by the Saturday "finish line"... it's just a number, a vague goal, but I find that I am able to discover some amazing reads that I probably wouldn't have done had I not had the challenge sheet on my desk. So the one square I have just finished, for which I read Siddhartha Mukerjee's The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, was labeled: "Set Your Own Challenge". It certainly did that, even more than the biography of Albert Einstein which I tackled earlier in the summer. I think almost everyone has been touched by cancer, and most everyone sincerely hopes not to face this most tenacious of diseases as the final end. But that is no reason not to be fascinated by it and want to understand more about it. Mukerjee writes very well and has organized his book in such a way as to honor people involved in this long "biography". It is very dense going sometimes, as there are fairly in-depth presentations of biological and chemical processes which come into play over the thousands of years that scientists have tried to understand and combat what has turned out to be a disease both endogenous (mutations in our human genome are hallmarks of the irruption of cancers) and prone to exogenous influences (carcinogens capable of triggering the endogenous oncogenes). I have great respect for a book which can endow me with so much more knowledge, fascinating and bewildering. I have a deep knowledge of the evolution of medicine over centuries (if not millenia) to come to grips with this most elusive of maladies, I have met and understood many personalities and the individual battles each faced, I have shaken my head at a society where "nearly every new drug is subjected to rigorous scrutiny as a potential carcinogen, and even a bare hint of a substance's link to cancer ignites a firestorm of public hysteria and media anxiety--{yet} one of the most potent and common carcinogens known to humans can be freely bought and sold at every corner store for a few dollars." By the end of the book, I agree with the author that perhaps we need to redefine "victory" by focusing on prolonging good life rather than eliminating death, which is part and parcel of our genome for, as he puts it well, "..much about this battle will remain the same: the relentlessness, the inventiveness, the resilience, the queasy pivoting between defeatism and hope, the hypnotic drive for universal solutions, the disappointment of defeat, the arrogance and the hubris." It was a challenging read on so many levels, and so worthwhile.

Journal Entry 8 by wingMmeClintonwing at When Pigs Fly Company Store and PIzzeria in Kittery, Maine USA on Saturday, August 31, 2019

Released 3 mos ago (8/31/2019 UTC) at When Pigs Fly Company Store and PIzzeria in Kittery, Maine USA

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