Telling the Story of Cancer

Writing a biography of cancer — particularly one that clocks in at 600 pages spanning 4,000 years — was, as Siddhartha Mukherjee put it, “a little bit mad.” But Mukherjee went for it, writing The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, honing in on the stories of patients – those who suffered primitive treatments, or survived thanks to radical advances. Today, he noted, cancer hits one in two American men and one in three American women.

“These people are stitched into our history and yet, oddly enough, they weren’t …