This books delves into the history of cancer.

When cancer was (probably) first mentioned in writing, how the Greek philosophers perceived it, how modern medicine looks at it. It also analyses how scientists have tried to find cures and how the disease has affected people over the ages.

The author, an American cancer specialist and researcher, uses real-life scenarios to give the disease a face. In my opinion it makes the subject matter more approachable and makes reading the book more bearable.

I was amazed at the amount of facts the author managed to cram into the book. I found it extremely informative and pretty well-written.

I have only two criticisms:

1              As the author is based in America the information on cancer cure discoveries is almost completely centred on the USA. I have no figures at hand, but I doubt that America was the only country that made advances in the treatment of cancer.

Cover for The Emperor of all Maladies

2              The author uses quite a few Latin and jargon terms. While I was able to follow his arguments without too much trouble, I believe that this fact would put off quite a number of readers. A glossary at the end of the book would have been useful.

There were  two parts of the book I found harrowing. His description of how long it took surgeons to stop going down the road of radical surgery for breast cancer. Despite the fact that there was plenty of evidence to prove that it was not the best way to treat this cancer.

The other one was his chapter on proving the connection between smoking and cancer. The tobacco industry’s attempts at trying to skew the truth are simply unbelievable.

All in all I would recommend anyone interested in the history of cancer to read this book. And don’t let yourself be put off by the lingo. You’ll learn plenty of new information about the disease without understanding every single word.