The Emperor of All Maladies

emperorWe all have ‘that book’ or a bucket list of books we know we should and want to read, but they are too daunting to take on.  The Emperor of All Maladies was one of those books for me.  I had read many recommendations, but its size and topic made it look like the Everest of books.  A biography of cancer?  Sure, that sounds like a fun read.  A real escape at the end of a hard day.

I found it as a audio book at my library many weeks ago and thought this might just make the mountain surmountable.  Sure, it’s 16 discs and I could probably drive to Canada in the time it takes to listen to the whole thing, but it was worth a try.

I loved this book.  Yes, the topic is a difficult one to immerse yourself in (particularly if you’re not in healthcare), but it really was interesting.  The story is told well, with personal interest and a social science bent.  Where did this disease come from?  What are the ways we’ve tried to cure it and treat victims?  It’s easy to shake your head at the various treatments over the years, but mostly it scares you into realizing that despite all of the medical advances, cancer is something that still is mostly deadly.

There were a few things I found difficult.  Some of the personal profiles appeared so sporadically throughout the book I had forgotten them by the time they showed up again.  The author occasionally inserted little bits on his own experiences, but again they were so infrequent that they were jarring.  I think they appeared to tie together at the end, but they still didn’t quite work.  The book also moved back and forth through time, which got confusing at times.  I would think ‘didn’t we just solve that problem’ only to realize that the book had jumped back 30 years in time.

All in all, I thought this was a great book.  It was an interesting read and highly informative.  I’m not sure I’d recommend it to anyone who is in the midst of a cancer battle (or has someone close to them who is), but it ended up to be a fascinating subject.

One more off the bucket list!


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