The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, narrated by Stephen Hoye
Published in audio by Tantor Media, published in print by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
“The Emperor of All Maladies” is a sprawling and epic biography of cancer from its earliest mentions, through a rocky history full of misunderstandings, to the latest and greatest cancer drugs of the present.
Thoughts on the work:
Almost 600 pages or 21 hours of a discourse on cancer sounds perhaps somewhat intimidating, but Mukherhjee has created a fairly comprehensive biography which can be easily grasped by laymen, but is still detailed. I cannot even begin to list all of the things I learned. The section which has stuck with me more than anything else is the discussion on carcinogens and how they actually cause cancer. My level of thought on that had always been limited more or less to ‘they do,’ without questioning the how. This is merely one example of how Mukherjee makes the reader examine what she thinks she really knows about cancer. 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.
Thoughts on the audio production:
I was not terribly fond of Hoye at the outset, but he grew on me throughout the 21 hours of this audiobook. Largely I think he just got out of the way of Mukherjee’s work, but I think that was really exactly what needed to be done. Please see my review for AudioFile Magazine for more details.
I would absolutely recommend “The Emperor of All Maladies.” Whether you partake in print or audio should be determined by the purpose you have in reading it. If you are already a medical science-minded person and want to really get in depth with the details Mukherjee provides, that is often best served by print. However, if you are like me and are looking more for a comprehensible overview of cancer and the history of cancer, audio is a great choice to keep you from getting too caught up in technical jargon and still give a good, comprehensive overview.
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