An oncologist has won the Guardian First Book award for his “biography” of cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies, which traces the disease from the first recorded mastectomy in 500BC to today's cutting edge research. Siddhartha Mukherjee has called his book – a mix of history, memoir and biography, of science and the personal stories of cancer patients – “an attempt to enter the mind of this immortal illness, to understand its personality, to demystify its behaviour”. The only non-fiction title on the shortlist, it beat four novels to win the £10,000 award, narrowly seeing off Amy Waldman's The Submission, set in post-9/11 America. Stephen Kelman's Booker-shortlisted novel Pigeon English was also in the running. The chair of judges, Lisa Allardice, editor of Guardian Review, said Mukherjee's “anthropomorphism of a disease” was a “remarkable and unusual achievement”.
“In the end it came down to a very difficult decision between a first novel [The Submission] and a first book of tremendous research,” she said. “They were so different – both incredibly impressive achievements in their own rights, but in the end the Mukherjee was felt to be the more original. “He has managed to balance such a vast amount of information with lively narratives, combining complicated science with moving human stories. Far from being intimidating, it's a compelling, accessible book, packed full of facts and anecdotes that you know you will remember and which you immediately want to pass on to someone else.”
More here. (Note: Congratulations to Sid…dear friend, brilliant colleague and fantastic writer who is great at everything he does including all the bone marrows on my patients.)