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Siddhartha Mukherjee: ‘I don’t like writing as if I don’t exist’

The Pulitzer-winning science author on combining the history of cell biology with personal stories, the influence of Salman Rushdie and why he likes to write in bed Siddhartha Mukherjee is the author of four science books, including The Emperor of All Maladies, which won the 2011 Pulitzer prize for general nonfiction and the Guardian first book award. Born in Delhi in 1970 and educated at Stanford, Oxford (as a Rhodes scholar), and Harvard, Mukherjee is now assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University, as well as a cancer physician and researcher. He lives in New York City with his wife, Sarah Sze, an artist, and their two daughters. His latest book, The Song of the Cell, will be published on 3 November. Why a book about cells?
Cell biology had always been at the centre of my thinking – as an oncologist, I look at cells through cancer, which is their ultimate distortion. So much of our attention has been occupied by genetics over the past century, but a gene is lifeless without cells. There’s nothing you can read from a DNA molecule that tells you that your eyes are shaped like eyes or that your kidney is kidney-shaped. Only your cells in the right context and the right time can interpret that code. So it felt as if we were missing part of the equation. The Song of the Cell by Siddhartha Mukherjee is published by Bodley Head (£25). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at Delivery charges may apply
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