Facing Our Modern Day Grendel, A Recommendation Of The Emperor Of All Maladies: The Biography Of Cancer By Siddhartha Mukherjee.

1136 words - 5 pages

In recommending an award winning, non-fiction text for our English class, I decided to base my selections on the following personal criteria: the texts should be appealing, informative, engaging and life transforming to readers. Based on these personal criteria along with those given by our instructor, I came up with the following top three picks; The first text is Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys And The Dawn Of a New America, by Gilbert King. The second text is The Year of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, by Saul Friedländer and my third pick is, The Emperor of All Maladies: The Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. While all three texts meet my criteria, we were instructed to recommend just a text. The Emperor of All Maladies will be my top pick as I find it to be the most likely life transforming and engaging text of the three based on reviews of the texts. It is also the least likely text one will find in an English class, which makes it even more interesting.

According to a recent statistic by Canadian Cancer Society, an estimated 187,600 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2013 and about 75,500 are expected to die from it. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada, accounting for about 30% of all death. Children are not exempted from the evil that this unrelenting foe of our society is perpetrating. In reviewing “The Emperor of All Maladies”, reviewer Alexander Linklater noted Harold Varmus while accepting his Nobel prize for the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes in 1989, turned to Beowulf: "We have only seen our monster more clearly and described his scales and fangs in new ways – ways that reveal a cancer cell to be, like Grendel, a distorted version of our normal selves”. Just as Grendel caught the Danes unprepared, our society is often caught unguarded by our modern day Grendel, in the form of cancer leaving many lives and dreams shattered.

While most of us have been touched in one way or the other by this monstrous disease, we know very little about the enemy we are forced to face. In “The Emperor of All Maladies”, Mukherjee takes us on a journey through the history of cancer and the different measures that has been taken to conquer this demon of a disease. Using stories of some of his patients, he systematically acquaint us with the past, present and future of cancer. Jonathan Weiner in his review writes, “He [Siddhartha Mukherjee] frames it as a biography, ‘an attempt to enter the mind of this immortal illness, to understand its personality, to demystify its behavior.” It is an epic story that he seems compelled to tell, the way a passionate young priest might attempt a biography of Satan”. One can agree to the fact that knowing one’s enemy as much as possible is of importance in winning a battle. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a...

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