After it was published in 2010, I told anyone and everyone to read the nonfiction book “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” by Siddhartha Mukherjee. A physician and oncologist, Mukherjee pulled off a singular feat. He wrote a moving and readable book about cancer with a three-part structure: an absorbing history of a disease that has plagued mankind since prehistory; a memoir of his own struggles with treating cancer patients; and a work of journalism that explained concepts such as targeted gene therapy in terms that even scientific dolts like me could understand.
“Emperor” won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, but I had mixed success in my campaign for readers — who, unless they’re in the middle of it, wants to read about mankind’s eons-long war against cancer?
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