Sunday, June 26, 2016


When a book wins the Pulitzer Prize for best General Non-Fiction it is time to check it out at Monrovia Public Library. When that book is so singular that it was named by Time magazine as one of the most influential works in the past century then it becomes doubly compelling for readers and book groups who enjoy titles with great depth to seek out that book.

The prize-winner is The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, a history of the illness from historical, medical, literary and sociological perspectives. Going back to ancient Egypt BC and continuing to the present, the book shows how cancer diagnosis and treatment have evolved.  Stating that "Incremental advances can add up to transformative changes" author Siddhartha Mukherjee shows how the understanding of cancer and the development of ways to stop it have grown and shifted with time and research.

The author is an oncologist,a professor and a medical historian. Born and educated in India and later at Stanford and Harvard, he is also a Rhodes Scholar who attended Oxford University. The Emperor of Maladies is a very readable work that presents complex information that does not overwhelm readers. Documentarian Ken Burns based his recent film for PBS on the book.

Mukherjee’s newest book, a current bestseller, is The Gene: An Intimate History. Like his previous book this is the saga, this time about the discovery of genes, how they operate and the pursuit to manipulate them. He also includes a fascinating genetic investigation into his own family. The science, the scientists and the ethics of genetic research are all present in this masterful work by an exceptional writer.

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