Winner of the 2023 PROSE Award for Excellence in Biological and Life Sciences and the 2023 Chautauqua Prize!
Named a New York Times Notable Book and a Best Book of the Year by The Economist, Oprah Daily, BookPage, Book Riot, the New York Public Library, and more!
In The Song of the Cell, the extraordinary author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Emperor of All Maladies and the #1 New York Times bestseller The Gene “blends cutting-edge research, impeccable scholarship, intrepid reporting, and gorgeous prose into an encyclopedic study that reads like a literary page-turner” (Oprah Daily).
Mukherjee begins this magnificent story in the late 1600s, when a distinguished English polymath, Robert Hooke, and an eccentric Dutch cloth-merchant, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek looked down their handmade microscopes. What they saw introduced a radical concept that swept through biology and medicine, touching virtually every aspect of the two sciences, and altering both forever. It was the fact that complex living organisms are assemblages of tiny, self-contained, self-regulating units. Our organs, our physiology, our selves—hearts, blood, brains—are built from these compartments. Hooke christened them “cells.”
The discovery of cells—and the reframing of the human body as a cellular ecosystem—announced the birth of a new kind of medicine based on the therapeutic manipulations of cells. A hip fracture, a cardiac arrest, Alzheimer’s dementia, AIDS, pneumonia, lung cancer, kidney failure, arthritis, COVID pneumonia—all could be reconceived as the results of cells, or systems of cells, functioning abnormally. And all could be perceived as loci of cellular therapies.
Filled with writing so vivid, lucid, and suspenseful that complex science becomes thrilling, The Song of the Cell tells the story of how scientists discovered cells, began to understand them, and are now using that knowledge to create new humans. Told in six parts, and laced with Mukherjee’s own experience as a researcher, a doctor, and a prolific reader, The Song of the Cell is both panoramic and intimate—a masterpiece on what it means to be human.
“In an account both lyrical and capacious, Mukherjee takes us through an evolution of human understanding: from the seventeenth-century discovery that humans are made up of cells to our cutting-edge technologies for manipulating and deploying cells for therapeutic purposes” (The New Yorker).
About the Author
Siddhartha Mukherjee is the author of The Gene: An Intimate History, a #1 New York Times bestseller; The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction; and The Laws of Medicine. He is the editor of Best Science Writing 2013. Mukherjee is an associate professor of medicine at Columbia University and a cancer physician and researcher. A Rhodes scholar, he graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford, and Harvard Medical School. In 2023, he was elected as a new member of the National Academy of Medicine. He has published articles in many journals, including Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine, Cell, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker. He lives in New York with his wife and daughters. Visit his website at: SiddharthaMukherjee.com.
Dennis Boutsikaris won an OBIE Award for his performance in Sight Unseen and played Mozart in Amadeus on Broadway. Among his films are *batteries not included, The Dream Team, and Boys On the Side. His many television credits include And Then There Was One, Chasing the Dragon, and 100 Center Street.
"This is the second of Mukherjee’s audiobooks that Dennis Boutsikaris has narrated, after 2017’s THE GENE. In this expansive history of the researchers who unlocked the mysteries of the cell, Boutsikaris demonstrates again the importance of an experienced narrator in shaping a complex narrative. Using many of his skills as a narrator of bestselling thrillers, Boutsikaris shades a syllable here, adds a degree of emphasis there, heightening and bringing dramatic tension to a history that is already skillfully told and highly accessible but, at times, unavoidably dense. This is a narrative to digest slowly, step by step. The chapters are conveniently brief, and it’s no effort to listen to such an adept performer a second, even a third, time."
— AudioFile Magazine