The First Cell

And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last

    • 3.8 • 11 Ratings
    • $12.99
    • $12.99

Publisher Description

With the fascinating scholarship of The Emperor of All Maladies and the deeply personal experience of When Breath Becomes Air, a world-class oncologist examines the current state of cancer and its devastating impact on the individuals it affects -- including herself.
In The First Cell, Azra Raza offers a searing account of how both medicine and our society (mis)treats cancer, how we can do better, and why we must. A lyrical journey from hope to despair and back again, The First Cell explores cancer from every angle: medical, scientific, cultural, and personal. Indeed, Raza describes how she bore the terrible burden of being her own husband's oncologist as he succumbed to leukemia. Like When Breath Becomes Air, The First Cell is no ordinary book of medicine, but a book of wisdom and grace by an author who has devoted her life to making the unbearable easier to bear.

Professional & Technical
October 15
Basic Books
Hachette Digital, Inc.

Customer Reviews

RobMSF ,

Compelling message marred by a pretentious writing style

There were times when I was reading this book when I wished I could have thanked the author personally, shaken her hand, and maybe even given her a hug. And there were other times when I seriously considered putting the book aside and having nothing more to do with it. The reason is the message versus the overall book. If I had been the author or the editor, once this work was completed, I would have asked: How much of this is about the message, and how much is about Azra Raza? And I would have seriously considered filtering out a significant part of the latter. The book’s message is undeniably valuable and compelling, and the author’s argument is well-presented, clear, and well-documented. Really, everyone should be aware of this message, considering how many of us will be impacted by cancer in our lifetimes. But then there’s the book itself, which often comes across as an extended, pretentious tirade. Added to that, it seems she decided early on to use this book as a chance to give 15 minutes of fame to people she likes, however cheap and cliché her literary devices might be (“Michele floated in lightly, looking beautiful in a summer dress … and gently inquired if we were ready for lunch”), and also to take petty stabs at those she doesn’t like, like the “young male researcher whose ego was so dense, light would bend around him." The endless self-aggrandizement, fist-pounding, and needlessly pretentious language —such as her description of cells “seeking comfort in uninhabited beds, forging alliances with cooperative bedfellows in marrow niches and safe havens of supportive organs” — make the book laughable at times and nauseating at others, so much so that it ultimately comes across as the voice of an eccentric ranting and raving in the wilderness. For me, it’s 5 stars for the message but only 3 for the overall book.

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