Sam Apple: Ravenous—Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection




Sam Apple
Liveright, May 25, 2021, $28.95
ISBN-10:1631493159; ISBN-13:978-1631493157

Apple reports:

My book tells the story of the German biochemist Otto Warburg and how the revival of his long-lost research is changing our fundamental understanding of cancer. I had been interested in metabolism for a number of years but had not thought of cancer as a metabolic disease until I first learned of Warburg's research around eight years ago.

While I was fascinated by the science, I decided to write about the topic only when I learned of Warburg's extraordinary story of survival in Nazi Germany. Unlike almost all other scientists with Jewish heritage, Warburg remained in Germany throughout the war. The Nazis protected him because they thought he might cure cancer—a disease Hitler dreaded.

Sam Apple

Sam Apple

Warburg’s science was also interesting to me because I think it has important implications for our health and daily eating habits. Warburg discovered that cancer cells consume more glucose (blood sugar) than healthy cells and metabolize it differently. A number of prominent researchers who now study this unusual metabolism of cancer cells believe that it is driven, in part, by the sugar in our diets and sugar’s impact on the hormone insulin.

I initially wrote an article about Otto Warburg for The New York Times Magazine. After publication of the article in May, 2016, Robert Weil, an editor at Liveright, contacted my agent, Dan Lazar, to ask if I would be interested in expanding the article into a book. I’ve been working with Dan since 2006.

I had never written a history before, and I wish I’d known more about archival research. It took me some time to learn how to navigate the various archives I visited.

I think aspiring nonfiction authors should consider writing a magazine feature on their topic as a first step. In addition to increasing the chances of selling a book proposal, the magazine feature requires an author to capture the core elements of the story. In my case, at least, the magazine article functioned much like an outline for the book.

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May. 26, 2021

Advance Copy

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit to submit your report.

Publication of NASW members' reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions.

Hybrid 2022 AAAS Annual Meeting