Bowdoin Reads

Dan Robinson, Assistant Director of Annual Giving/Young Alumni is reading...

The Emperor of All Maladies
by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Let me start by saying that I’m a hopeless addict to trashy fantasy and sci-fi novels. After finishing a particularly long and embarrassingly bad series I decided that it was time to push the boundaries of my comfort zone, so I committed to reading 10 non-fiction books before returning to my usual rubbish. To start, I decided to take the “fiction” out of “science fiction” and chose to read The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. The author describes the book as both a history and a biography of cancer. Over the course of the book, he walks the reader through 4,000 years of our struggle with this disease scientifically, culturally, and politically. As a lay person, I was pleased that the book was written in terms I could understand without having to break out my old Biology textbooks. As a former resident of Boston, I enjoyed how much of the story took place in places I used to walk by every day. And as a cancer survivor, I was intrigued to think about my own treatment and how it was shaped by factors both medical and not. At the end of the book, the reader is left with an appreciation of how far we have come from 2500 BC when the first documented cancer diagnosis is made in ancient Egypt to today’s targeted therapies informed by genetic testing. At the same time, the reader is left with a more daunting sense of what an insidiously complicated— and almost sentient—disease cancer is, how far we have to go before we can declare “victory”, and what that “victory” might one day look like. Overall, I’d highly recommend The Emperor of All Maladies. Just make sure you have something fun to read or watch to lighten the mood afterward.

Be the first to comment | Find in library