Friday book post (Cancer edition)

Haven’t done one of these in a while, but I just finished reading a fabulous book I want to mention: The Emperor of All Maladies A biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee.   Fascinating book that tackles the history, the sociology, and the science of cancer.   Took a lot longer to finish than I’d like, as the new baby cuts into reading time, but it was terrific.  I think the history of breast cancer treatment is particular interesting.  I knew a “radical masectomy” was removing a whole breast, but I had no idea how radical.  Surgeons were in a competition to see who could cut away more of a woman’s flesh to presumably get every last possible bit of cancer.  Of course, now we know that once cancer has metastaticized and spread beyond its local origin, it can go anywhere and it doesn’t matter how much tissue you cut away around the tumor.  Should you not be up to reading the book, there’s a great interview with the author on Fresh Air.

Also, reminded me of a seemingly unrelated science fiction novel that’s one of my favorites of recent years– Calculating God by Robert Sawyer.  The main theme of this book is the implications of discovering that amazing similaries with other extra-terrestial civilizations which would seem to prove the existence of God.  Really thought-provoking stuff.  A secondary plot, though deals with universality (in the broadest sense) of cancer where ever life is found and the implications for the relationship between cancer and life.  There were definitely some echoes of the cancer science in Sawyer’s work.

Anyway, two great and totally different books which you should both consider reading.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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