After reading 'The Gene' (Mukherjee's newest book), I saw that a common thread in many of the reviews for that book said that 'Maladies' was the superior effort. It was one of those books that I planned to read "someday" and it took years to buy it and then a few more years to finally get around to reading it. Sometimes it felt like years getting though the book, unfortunately.
Mukherjee looks at the history of cancer: its origins, its place in history, the different ways people have tried to treat it, the advances, the frustrations, etc. It's an epic look at the people who have diagnosed it, treated it, worked on it, suffered from it. Other than the basics of cancer and bits and pieces elsewhere I can't say I knew much that Mukherjee covers.
Unfortunately the book suffers for it. It is far too long and covers too much. Initially it reminded me of 'Neurotribes' in its approach but like 'The Gene' (although TG suffers a lot more from this), the book really needed a better editor. As other reviews note, it's like Mukherjee threw everything he found in his research into the book. Sometimes that can be a fantastic approach but depending on the audience it can mean the eyes glaze over and it becomes information overload. There are some great parts and cutting though some of the wordier places made it worth for some of the text. For example, I really wanted to know what happened to Carla (his patient) who pops in and out of the text. Some readers probably didn't care for that (understandable) but I found her story of her diagnosis and treatment interesting and hers was a narrative I wanted to follow.
I think there is definitely an audience for this: medical students in general, people who intend to study cancer specifically for school or for their job that is related to the medical field, maybe cancer patients and/or their family members/friends (although that would probably depend on the individual), etc. But as a read for a general audience this was just too much and one of those books that make me wonder who thought this was noteworthy or why it gets so many accolades and awards.
I got this as a bargain book and that was probably best since I kept putting off reading it but wanted to get around to it eventually. I don't think I'll be reading anything else by Mukherjee, though.