MAKING SENSE OF CANCER

FROM ITS EVOLUTIONARY ORIGIN TO ITS SOCIETAL IMPACT AND THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION

An engaging book that’s both scientifically exacting and philosophically stimulating.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Breivik, a professor of medicine at the University of Oslo, reconsiders the quest to eradicate cancer.

According to the Norwegian author, very few cancer researchers working today believe that the complete eradication of all forms of the disease is a plausible goal. Indeed, he says, it’s certain that in the future there will actually be more, not less, cancer in the world. Much of what the general public believes about cancer, he says, is either completely false or only partially correct; for example, he says, cancer is not the consequence of “just faults in the machinery,” but rather due to the natural selection of mutated genes. Of course, one can lower one’s chances of getting cancer through various lifestyle choices, but these measures provide little guarantee—an unflinching observation that’s characteristic of the author’s sobering analysis. Cancer becomes more likely as we age, and as lifespans continue to increase, so will cancer incidence; therefore, the only cure for cancer would have to be a cure for aging. “Either way—aging or cancer—we are doomed. But this gloomy fact is neither due to evilness nor bad luck. The cause of cancer is a fundamental consequence of the way we reproduce ourselves….We are temporary cell colonies made by our genes to pass them on to the next generation.” Breivik furnishes a remarkably accessible account of cancer in light of evolutionary theory while calmly debunking several widely held misconceptions about the disease. He also reflects deeply and critically on the interpretation of death as an evil to be overcome, rather than a natural, necessary part of life.

As the book goes on, Breivik does acknowledge the possibility that enormous leaps could be made in human longevity, either by advances in regenerative medicine or by artificial intelligence, that could permit consciousness to be preserved independent of our physical bodies. But he wonders, with lucidity and philosophical depth, if these are moral advancements as well as technological ones: “The solution to cancer is possible, but it does not include human beings. At least not people of flesh and blood….Aging, cancer, and death are fundamental aspects of being human. If we eliminate this circle of life, we eliminate ourselves.” This is, of course, both an unconventional and controversial view, but it’s one the author articulates with an impressive boldness and without sensationalism; indeed, readers will find that the entire work is a model of intellectual caution. The scientific descriptions of cancer are not mere simplifications designed for readers seeking easily digestible fare; such text will certainly challenge those who lack backgrounds in the relevant science. That said, the descriptions are as clear as one could hope, given the prohibitively technical nature of the subject matter. Overall, Breivik delivers an edifying book that reveals much about cancer (and the medical industry’s approach to it), but he also meditates profoundly on larger matters, including the very meaning of human life itself.

An engaging book that’s both scientifically exacting and philosophically stimulating.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9781632997616

Page Count: 214

Publisher: River Grove Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2023

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 25


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

GREENLIGHTS

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 25


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

F*CK IT, I'LL START TOMORROW

The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.

The chef, rapper, and TV host serves up a blustery memoir with lashings of self-help.

“I’ve always had a sick confidence,” writes Bronson, ne Ariyan Arslani. The confidence, he adds, comes from numerous sources: being a New Yorker, and more specifically a New Yorker from Queens; being “short and fucking husky” and still game for a standoff on the basketball court; having strength, stamina, and seemingly no fear. All these things serve him well in the rough-and-tumble youth he describes, all stickball and steroids. Yet another confidence-builder: In the big city, you’ve got to sink or swim. “No one is just accepted—you have to fucking show that you’re able to roll,” he writes. In a narrative steeped in language that would make Lenny Bruce blush, Bronson recounts his sentimental education, schooled by immigrant Italian and Albanian family members and the mean streets, building habits good and bad. The virtue of those habits will depend on your take on modern mores. Bronson writes, for example, of “getting my dick pierced” down in the West Village, then grabbing a pizza and smoking weed. “I always smoke weed freely, always have and always will,” he writes. “I’ll just light a blunt anywhere.” Though he’s gone through the classic experiences of the latter-day stoner, flunking out and getting arrested numerous times, Bronson is a hard charger who’s not afraid to face nearly any challenge—especially, given his physique and genes, the necessity of losing weight: “If you’re husky, you’re always dieting in your mind,” he writes. Though vulgar and boastful, Bronson serves up a model that has plenty of good points, including his growing interest in nature, creativity, and the desire to “leave a legacy for everybody.”

The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4478-5

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

Close Quickview