The Forgetting
David Shenk
Trade Paperback
ISBN 978-0-385-49838-8
Buy the Book


"Riveting....superb...a must-read for anyone interested in the wretched ailment that is Alzheimer's."
-- The San Francisco Chronicle

"Deeply affecting...a fascinating meditation on the scientific, political and cultural history of Alzheimer's disease."
-- The Washington Post

"A graceful, masterful portrait of [the] illness...Readers can't help but be taken by Shenk's humanity and compassion, which brim throughout."
-- The Los Angeles Times

"Written with a researcher's attention to detail and a storyteller's ear."
-- The New York Times

"Destined to be a classic...Shenk's guided tour is free of medical jargon, filled instead with clear and sometimes memorable phrasing."
-- The Seattle Times

"An elegant new book .... [Previous Alzheimer's books] have rarely ventured beyond conventions of anguished family memoir, caregiver's survival guide or life-in-the-lab docu-drama. In 'The Forgetting,' David Shenk attempts something grander, and succeeds admirably."
-- Newsweek

"A brilliant and quirky new book on Alzheimer's [that] offers food for thought on the unthinkable and a new, deeper understanding of the coming epidemic."

"Compelling and immensely humane . . . . Shenk's integration of historical and scientific information and personal stories makes for an absorbing read."
-- Newsday

"An excellent new book."
-- The New Yorker

"Fascinating...A quirky mix of medical history, the voices of patients and their families, and accounts of the search for a cure...Shenk makes the science understandable and recounts personal stories that are both moving and illuminating."
-- Business Week

"Carefully researched and engagingly written."
-- The Wall Street Journal

"A dazzling literary and scientific history of Alzheimer's disease."
-- The Detroit Free Press

"A sobering but important book."
-- The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

"Fascinating....As good as the science in this book is, it takes a back seat to Shenk's eloquent reflections on the meaning of memory and aging, and their connection to our sense of self."
---- The Washington Monthly

"Completely absorbing, fascinating, the best of writing."
-- Amy Tan

"The definitive work on Alzheimer's. A truly remarkable book ."
-- John Bayley

  • Listen to Noah Adams interview David on NPR's All Things Considered, from September 5, 2001


    Alzheimer's disease is a demographic time bomb. Since 1975, the number of Americans afflicted has risen from five hundred thousand to five million; over the next fifty years, an estimated eighty to one hundred million more people worldwide will succumb to it. But it is the story behind these numbers that makes The Forgetting such a landmark work. A magnificent synthesis of history, science, politics, psychology, and profound human drama, the book explores the nature of a disease that attacks not merely memory but the very core of our human identity.

    Delving into such diverse areas as art history, literature, genetics, and neurobiology, David Shenk shows that Alzheimer's particular terror, the gradual eradication of memory and of mind is as old as humankind itself. He convincingly posits that such historical figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jonathan Swift and Frederick Law Olmstead were caught in the disease's insidious grip. Moving portraits of contemporary patients, their families, and their caregivers drive home the sad pattern of regression Alzheimer's exacts, a pathology that eerily mirrors child development in reverse. Yet Shenk offers a well of empathy and understanding for families striving to better understand and come to terms with their loss.

    With equal mastery Shenk charts the complicated race to find a cure. As scientists pursue a treatment worth billions of dollars, the brutal competition among them poses a serious threat to the traditional ethic of sharing vital research. But there are heartening signs of progress, and for the first time there is excitement among scientists that a cure may indeed be possible.

    Shenk eloquently calls Alzheimer's "death by a thousand subtractions." The Forgetting is at once a powerful examination of what this means and a forthright discussion of the impact this epidemic will have on the life of every reader.


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