Summary and book reviews of In Pursuit of Memory by Joseph Jebelli

In Pursuit of Memory

The Fight Against Alzheimer's

by Joseph Jebelli

In Pursuit of Memory by Joseph Jebelli X
In Pursuit of Memory by Joseph Jebelli
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  • Published:
    Oct 2017, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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Book Summary

For readers of Atul Gawande, Siddhartha Mukherjee, and Henry Marsh, a riveting, gorgeously written biography of one of history's most fascinating and confounding diseases - Alzheimer's - from its discovery more than 100 years ago to today's race towards a cure.

Alzheimer's is the great global epidemic of our time, affecting millions worldwide - there are more than 5 million people diagnosed in the US alone. And as our population ages, scientists are working against the clock to find a cure.

Neuroscientist Joseph Jebelli is among them. His beloved grandfather had Alzheimer's and now he's written the book he needed then - a very human history of this frightening disease. But In Pursuit of Memory is also a thrilling scientific detective story that takes you behind the headlines. Jebelli's quest takes us from nineteenth-century Germany and post-war England, to the jungles of Papua New Guinea and the technological proving grounds of Japan; through America, India, China, Iceland, Sweden, and Colombia. Its heroes are scientists from around the world - many of whom he's worked with - and the brave patients and families who have changed the way that researchers think about the disease.

This compelling insider's account shows vividly why Jebelli feels so hopeful about a cure, but also why our best defense in the meantime is to understand the disease. In Pursuit of Memory is a clever, moving, eye-opening guide to the threat one in three of us faces now.

Preface: 'A Peculiar Disease'

Science is public, not private, knowledge.
Robert King Merton, Science, Technology and Society in Seventeenth-Century England, 1988

WHEN I WAS twelve years old, my grandfather began to act strangely. I had known Abbas Jebelli as a self-effacing man, whose strong sense of family frequently carried him from volatile Iran to our quiet street in Bristol, England. He used to arrive with suitcases filled with pistachio nuts and Persian sweets, smiling until the corners of his eyes wrinkled as he handed us our gifts.

It started with inexplicable walks. When he was visiting, he'd leave the dinner table and then we would find him, half an hour later, aimlessly wandering the neighbourhood. 'Please stop doing that,' my father would say. 'Bebakhshid,' ('forgive me') was all Abbas ever replied in his native Farsi. His bright smiles were gradually replaced by a fearful, withdrawn expression, as if he'd lost something...

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Reviews

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Jebelli's writing style is comparable to that of Siddhartha Mukherjee, Ed Yong and Atul Gawande. His prose is perhaps not quite as lively and literary as theirs, but his book's importance outweighs any minor infelicities of style. What matters most is that he conveys scientific facts in a clear way the layman can understand; in addition, as in Mukherjee's The Gene, he balances history and research with a personal medical story almost any reader can relate to.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Full Review (653 words).

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Media Reviews

The Times (UK)
Joseph Jebelli's wonderfully clear, vividly readable and comprehensive survey of the search for a cure ... The world is closing in on Alzheimer's. There is nowhere left for it to hide.

The Observer (UK)
A moving, sober and forensic study of the past, present and future of Alzheimer's from the point of view of a neurologist who has lived with the disease, at home and in the lab, from a very young age. The story Jebelli tells illustrates the tantalizing mystery of Alzheimer's: it's both highly visible yet agonizingly elusive...a timely analysis [that] might give comfort.

The Sunday Times (UK)
An accessible, diligently researched and well-travelled overview of the disease that is more deadly than cancer. Jebelli poignantly weaves the current science with the tragic stories of affected families, not least his ow

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Jebelli's exploration of the vexed science of Alzheimer's is lucid and emotionally rich in its portrayal of those who investigate the illness and those who endure it.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Jebelli analyzes every facet of Alzheimer's with personal empathy and scientific rigor, a combination that makes for enthralling reading.

Author Blurb Matt Ridley
In Pursuit of Memory is a remarkable combination of fine writing, personal honesty, and deep scientific insight - about a devastating and baffling disease that is becoming all too common.

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Beyond the Book

Did You Know? Eight Alzheimer's Facts

Joseph Jebelli's In Pursuit of Memory is full of fascinating facts about Alzheimer's disease. We've picked out a handful you might not know already.

  1. The specific mutation associated with Alzheimer's disease was discovered on chromosome 21 in 1991. Because Down's syndrome also involves chromosome 21 (specifically, an extra copy of it - which is why Down's syndrome is also known as trisomy 21), virtually all Down's patients will develop Alzheimer's.
  2. William Utermohlen was an American artist who lived in London and found out in 1995 that he had Alzheimer's. Over the next five years he painted a series of self-portraits that became increasingly blurry, reflecting his decline.
  3. Measures that may help prevent Alzheimer's include avoiding ...

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