The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
A Biography of Cancer

83%

32 Critic Reviews

Dr. Mukherjee respects his enemy— cancer is "our desperate, malevolent, contemporary doppelgänger," he says...The stories of his patients consume him, and the decisions he makes about their care haunt him.
-WSJ online

Synopsis

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and now a documentary from Ken Burns on PBS, The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.

Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with—and perished from—for more than five thousand years.

The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist.

From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave may have cut off her diseased breast, to the nineteenth-century recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy to Mukherjee’s own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through fiercely demanding regimens in order to survive—and to increase our understanding of this iconic disease.

Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer.
 

About Siddhartha Mukherjee

See more books from this Author
Siddhartha Mukherjee is a cancer physician and researcher. His book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction. Mukherjee is an assistant professor of medicine at ColumbiaUniversity and a staff cancer physician at Columbia University Medical Center. A Rhodes scholar, he graduated from StanfordUniversity, University of Oxford, HarvardMedicalSchool. He has published articles in Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine, The New York Times, and The New Republic. He lives in New York with his wife and daughters.
 
Published November 16, 2010 by Scribner. 609 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Political & Social Sciences, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
icon12
Peak Rank on May 08 2011
icon12
Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
1
Currently Reading
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Emperor of All Maladies
All: 32 | Positive: 29 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Good
on Jun 16 2010

...looks optimistically to the future when the Human Genome Project completes “The Cancer Genome Atlas,” which will become “a compendium of every gene mutated in the most common forms of cancer.” An inspiring account of a very personal battle against “the plague of our generation.”

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Sep 27 2010

Mukherjee's formidable intelligence and compassion produce a stunning account of the effort to disrobe the "emperor of maladies."

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Times

Above average
on Nov 12 2010

Mukherjee stitches stories of his own patients into this history, not always smoothly.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Good
on Nov 10 2010

“The Emperor of All Maladies” is at its most honest in describing the push-pull dynamics of scientific progress.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Alexander Linklater on Jan 22 2011

...his intensely vivid and precise descriptions of biological processes accumulate into a character, fully developed and eerily familiar. The notion of "popular science" doesn't come close to describing this achievement. It is literature.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Excellent
on Oct 30 2011

Perhaps it is his own feeling for the disease that makes this Pulitzer prize-winning book so readable...

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Excellent
on Jan 23 2011

...his intensely vivid and precise descriptions of biological processes accumulate into a character, fully developed and eerily familiar.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from Guardian

NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Nicole Parker, Ph.D. on Nov 16 2010

Dr. Mukherjee has brought these two fields together and forged an amazing, definitive, intelligent book.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by LAURA LANDRO on Nov 13 2010

Dr. Mukherjee respects his enemy— cancer is "our desperate, malevolent, contemporary doppelgänger," he says...The stories of his patients consume him, and the decisions he makes about their care haunt him.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from WSJ online

WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by LAURA LANDRO on Nov 13 2010

Though Dr. Mukherjee has a storyteller's flair and a gift for translating complex medical concepts into simple language, he occasionally reverts to jargon so dense—especially in describing key discoveries in cancer genetics—that the lay reader may feel overwhelmed. Yet "The Emperor of All Maladies" is well worth wading into...

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from WSJ online

NY Journal of Books

Excellent
on Nov 16 2010

...an amazing, definitive, intelligent book.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

Globe and Mail

Good
on Nov 19 2010

...the book is beyond doubt well researched and written....

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from Globe and Mail

AV Club

Good
Reviewed by Ellen Wernecke on Dec 16 2010

A biography without an ending by the author’s own admission, The Emperor Of All Maladies does provide a tempered hope for advances in understanding that will fuel future discoveries.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from AV Club

AV Club

Good
on Dec 16 2010

Aligning medical trends with public policies...is Mukherjee’s key brushstroke, adding texture to his portrait of medical derring-do.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from AV Club

National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Randy Boyagoda on Dec 24 2010

To this impressive combination of the personal and the encyclopedic, Mukherjee further adds a great deal of detailed (at times overly so) explanations and analyses of research...

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from National Post arts

LA Times

Good
on Dec 19 2010

...shines a focused beam of light on a disease that has become our human shadow, so closely does it live beside us.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from LA Times

Entertainment Weekly

Good
on Nov 10 2010

Threaded throughout, and propelling the narrative forward, are the affecting tales of Mukherjee’s own patients.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

The Independent

Good
Reviewed by REBECCA K MORRISON on Mar 18 2011

De-mystifying the disease, rendering the science accessible, and wearing respect for the patients uppermost, The Emperor of All Maladies is the book that many will have been waiting for. This elegantly written overview allows us to look a once whispered-about illness squarely in the eye.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

The Telegraph

Below average
Reviewed by Brenda Maddox on Jan 27 2011

...not an easy read, especially for the British eye. Its scientific explanations are interposed awkwardly and its pages spattered with abbreviations...The book is unashamedly American in origin, spelling and statistics.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

San Francisco Chronicle

Above average
on Dec 05 2010

Ending on a somber note, Mukherjee describes the failure to cure a recurrent stomach cancer, underscoring that the riddle of cancer remains unsolved.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

Slate

Above average
Reviewed by Amanda Schaffer on Nov 08 2010

...an ambitious scientific, political, and cultural history of the disease...Mukherjee is judicious in his assessment of historical anti-cancer efforts.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

MostlyFiction Book Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowksy on Nov 25 2010

The Emperor of All Maladies is a riveting, thought-provoking, and enlightening work that deserves to become an instant classic.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

Oprah.com

Good

...Mukherjee tells a compulsively readable, surprisingly uplifting and vivid tale.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

The Pacific Northwest Inlander

Good
on Feb 02 2011

As a cancer physician, Mukherjee is perfect for this job.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

SeniorWomen.com

Good
Reviewed by Julia Sneden on Apr 21 2015

As long as there are doctors and researchers who are as thorough and articulate as Dr. Mukherjee, there is reason to hope. And if any one of them is also a terrific writer, our great grandchildren will be fortunate indeed.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Randy Boyagoda on Dec 24 2010

...this book abundantly documents, billions upon billions of dollars, and tens of thousands of lab experiments and patient trials and therapies, have been expended to combat it, and will continue to be...As for the present, this remarkable book will be our best guide.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ... | See more reviews from National Post arts

http://skrishnasbooks.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Swapna Krishna on Nov 17 2010

This is a book that everyone should pick up, in order to understand this vicious disease and what has been, is being, and can be done to halt its rampage. I hope that Mukherjee continues to write books, as clearly, treating cancer patients is not his only talent.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

Devourer of Books

Good
on Jan 28 2011

I cannot think of a single section of “The Emperor of All Maladies” that failed to excite my interest and curiosity. Best of all, Mukherjee walks the line of intellectual and easily understandable with grace and ease.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

Inverarity is not a Scottish village

Good
on Apr 19 2015

The Emperor of All Maladies is quite readable, but it is thick, with Mukherjee documenting all his research and diving deep into DNA, RNA, cellular biology, and biochemistry. It's a book for laymen, but laymen with a fairly good grasp of, and serious interest in, science.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

Chaotic Compendiums

Excellent
Reviewed by Caitlin Martin on Jul 08 2014

If you read one non-fiction book this year, read The Emperor of All Maladies. It's a fascinating suspenseful story of a disease that we will all be touched by at some time in our lives - directly or indirectly. It is in us, it is us. We should know it.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

Medieval Bookworm

Excellent
Reviewed by Meghan on Sep 27 2011

Cancer is our normal body functions turned inside out and made virulent – and immortal. It’s a surprisingly fascinating read which has really enhanced my understanding of everything to do with cancer. I’d highly recommend The Emperor of All Maladies to almost anyone.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

The Story Girl

Good
on Mar 16 2011

Overall, I think this book is a daunting read, but a worthy one. I think in our lifetimes cancer will affect all of us, whether from the disease in our own bodies or that of a loved one. While our understanding of the disease is far from complete, The Emperor of All Maladies gives us a small window of understanding.

Read Full Review of The Emperor of All Maladies: ...

Reader Rating for The Emperor of All Maladies
87%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 1930 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review

Reader reviews & activity

Alireza Rahnema

Alireza Rahnema 5 Feb 2015

Is currently reading the book

Alireza Rahnema

Alireza Rahnema 5 Feb 2015

Liked the book

×