The cancer chronicles

If you’re looking for an introduction to the painful subject of cancer — its history, its origins, and the efforts of science to combat it — I suggest you read the authoritative and compelling book, The Emperor of All Maladies, by the oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee. The Cancer Chronicles treats the same subject in a similar way but with far less success. George Johnson’s unrestrained use of medical and scientific jargon left me reeling, page after page, and I suspect that any other nonscientist will have a similar experience.

Undoubtedly, Johnson’s book — published in 2013, two years after The Emperor of All Maladies — includes information about numerous advances in cancer research and treatment that wasn’t available in 2011. Research in the field is accelerating that quickly! But Johnson shrouds his story with so many polysyllabic descriptors that I finished the book and couldn’t remember a single outstanding new development. There’s something to be said for the English language, unsullied by specialists’ cant. I wish technical writers would learn the lesson.


The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine’s Deepest Mystery by George Johnson @@ (2 out of 5)


George Johnson is an accomplished science writer whose credits include extensive work on television as well as writing for The New York Times. I would hope that his other work is better than what’s on offer in The Cancer Chronicles.

For further reading

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