What are some good books on cancer?
A good way to learn about any subject is to read good books about it. The same goes for cancer. Below, I’ve listed five of my favourite popular science books that feature cancer. However, I apologise for having avoided fiction (saving it for another day). So, if you’re expecting to see The Fault in Our Stars, you’re in the wrong place.
Please note that the following list is not a countdown.
1. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
This Pulitzer Prize winning book chronicles one of humanity’s oldest battles: the fight against cancer. Written by scientist and physician Dr Mukherjee, the book takes the reader on a journey spanning thousands of years, peeling through layers of history surrounding the emperor of all maladies and giving us a hopeful glimpse into the future. This book is a must-read for anyone hoping to get an idea of where we are in the race against cancer.
2. The Cancer Chronicles by George B. Johnson
When journalist George Johnsons’s wife Nancy was diagnosed with a rare form of uterine cancer, he was faced with a feeling of utter hopelessness and fear. Hoping to learn more about the disease, Johnson spent the next few years documenting its impact on people in the past and the present. This book is a personal story and speaks of the fears and hopes of someone who’s losing a loved one to cancer.
3. p53: The Gene that Cracked the Cancer Code by Sue Armstrong
p53 is one of the most famous genes and its role in cancer development is as important as it is complex. This book is a tribute to the world’s most studied gene, taking the reader through its discovery and role in cancer development. It is an interesting book that gives the reader a peek into the lives of cancer biologists and how sometimes, serendipity can lead to great discoveries.
4. One Renegade Cell by Robert Weinberg
One of the best popular science books on cancer, One Renegade Cell is authored by none other than Robert Weinberg, who discovered the first human oncogene. Written in simple and accessible language, the book focuses on how one renegade cell can lead to cancer. This is a must-read for anyone who wishes to acquire a basic understanding of the nature of cancer.
5. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
This book is about Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman who was the unwitting donor of cells derived from her cervical cancer. These cells gave rise to the first immortal cell line called HeLa. The book traces the history of Henrietta Lacks amidst issues such as medical ethics, consent and privacy. Though not entirely cancer-centric, the book is an interesting read for science non-fiction readers.
EXTRA: If you have a bit of a background in biology, and want to know more about cancer from a technical perspective, a good introductory paper would be The Hallmarks of Cancer by D. Hanahan and R. Weinberg. Also, if you like, The Emperor of All Maladies has been made into a three-part documentary that is available online.
What’s your favourite book on cancer?