Tagged with siddhartha mukherjee

2019 in reading

I had set a goal for 2019 of reading 100 books and nearly made it with 95 books. I’ll aim again this year.

My favorite reads for the year, in alphabetical order, were:

It’s interesting to note how much of this highlights list is non-fiction (fully half). The fraction that are written by women has declined somewhat to just under half, but white men continue to be almost absent from the list again.

My overall stats for the year had the fraction of women I read decline a little from 52.4% to 49.4%. PoC also slightly declined from 21.4% to 19.3%. Dead White Men continued to decline from 10.5% to 5.4%. Non-US 34% up from 25.7%. Translations 7.5% up from 4.6%. Authors new to me 80.1% up from 76.7%. Re-reads 0.3% down from 0.7%. Authors I’ve met 4.5% down from 7.5%. Median publication year 2014 vs 2013. Books advanced in the reading queue to meet demographic goals, 23.7% down from 35.8%. Books read as novel research 9.7% down from 16.4%.

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Dewey Decimal Project: 616.994 MUK The Emperor of Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

The 610s are oneNewImage of those sections of the library where there are a huge number of books, which is understandable as this is the medicine section and I have to imagine that self-diagnosing illnesses and/or researching treatments for illnesses, real and imagined, is a big use for the library.

I’d heard good things about The Emperor of Maladies so it was not an unfamiliar title when I spotted it on the shelves. My sister-in-law, who’s a doctor, saw it when I was in the middle of it and added her own endorsement of the book.

Much of the history of cancer takes place in the twentieth century, although that’s partly because so much of the history of medicine in general takes place in the twentieth century with medicine as a science being a relatively young discipline. The four humors theory of the functioning of the body managed to last into the nineteenth century despite the fact that two of the four humors turned out to not exist at all.

It seems somewhat miraculous that any treatment for cancer exists at all, or any understanding of cancer, for that matter, given the backwardness of medical science for so much of human history and even during the twentieth century, there was a lot of driving into long dead ends. Mukerhjee manages to make all of this compelling without giving in to oversimplification or distortion of the underlying science. Overall a book worthy of its praise.

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