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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  105,245 Ratings  ·  8,704 Reviews
An award-winning memoir and instant New York Times bestseller that goes far beyond its riveting medical mystery, Brain on Fire is the powerful account of one woman’s struggle to recapture her identity.

When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she’d gotten there. Day
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Free Press
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Tatiana Ruban Yes, I do. This is very interesting story. The human's brain is unpredictable and we never know what could happen on the next day.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Bonnie Jean
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Nurses, anyone.
I took care of a patient with this tragic and intriguing disorder. Her complex and terrifying journey through this disease in ongoing. Over the course of caring for her, her sister mentioned this book.

In this rare disorder, people often pass through a range of bizarre psychiatric symptoms that lead to catatonia and then often death as the body becomes unable to regulate itself, as with the patient I cared for in ICU. With the young woman who wrote this book, you see her pass through various sta
Will Byrnes
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jim McCasland
Susannah Cahalan, a young journalist working at a great (ok not so great, kinda schlocky actually) metropolitan newspaper, suddenly notices things going awry. She starts having episodes of paranoia, becomes hypersensitive to sound, light and cold. She suffers from loss of appetite and begins having out-of-body experiences and wild mood swings. A tour of New York psych and neuro pros did not yield much more than a suspicion that she had been partying too hard. On the other hand, grand mal seizure ...more
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I rarely read memoirs. Too often the author spends far too much time painting themselves in the best possible light and/or justifying their behavior. It is a rare and gifted author that can objectively describe a personal event without infusing it with strong emotions.

Perhaps Susannah was able to accomplish this huge feat due to the simple fact that she was unaware of herself much of the time that her brain was inflamed. She begins with the first noticeable symptom; a couple of bed bug bites tha
Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
Interesting and terrifying read.
Jen McLeod
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
You could probably call this a great piece of investigative reporting. Unfortunately for me, it was instead labelled as a memoir, leaving me feeling exasperated and mislead. I guess I was hoping for something akin to the more enjoyable memoirs that I've read (I'm thinking The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, or even Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, which is not so much memoir as it is fiction based on memoir - beside the point). This was more like an excruciatingly long newspaper article, ch ...more
Jonathan Ashleigh
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: recent
When you read you enter another world, and — as someone who is uncomfortable (with even the idea apparently) of care giving — entering the world of hospitals for the majority of this book was painful for me. Beyond that, I was unimpressed with the pop culture mentioned throughout the book — she described someone as looking like a character from “Mad Men” and she even uses Google as a verb. The part where she interviews John Walsh was probably the only part that I found truly enjoyable. The first ...more
4 plus stars - memoir of an up and coming 24 year-old woman reporter who suddenly begins to have unexplained seizures and symptoms of psychosis...

I listened to Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness on audio and found it both compelling and scary. The story starts when Susannah Cahalan couldn't move or speak and found that she was in a hospital room and strapped to her bed. She had been in the hospital for about a month with initial symptoms of seizures, psychosis, and other strange behavior. Th
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
I found this book troubling. Not because of the medical mystery -- that was the most interesting of all. It seems that the book would be better written in the third person, by someone other than the author/experiencer of the madness. By her own account, she cannot describe what it felt like to have her brain be on fire. The book says she uses journalistic techniques to piece together. And yet these tidbits drop in without much sense of how they were discovered (except for the case of the videota ...more
Nov 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
I am the perfect audience for this book: a catastrophic thinker who worries about any and all sensational news. I put off reading this one for a good long time because I was afraid...then decided I had better read it, just in case. I could save a life with this information!
I listened to the audio, which felt a little flat. It is impressive to consider that the author had to do so much investigative reporting to write her own story simply because she didn't remember it, but the combination of the
Apr 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, wonderful book.

I'm a neurologist, and it's amazing to see a book written from a patient's perspective, especially one with a such a good outcome. The book progresses from the starting of the disease process and right up to the recovery stage. It's unnerving to read about the psychotic episodes, the complex partial seizures, the generalised seizures and ultimately, the catatonia. It must have been very frightening for both the author and her loved ones to witness all of those events u
Apr 29, 2017 rated it liked it
It might not be the sexiest of subjects, but I really have a thing for neurology. How our billions of brain cells and their chemistry function is still a great mystery, but also toss in immune responses that have gone haywire, and there are complexities here that are beyond fascinating when unraveled.

This is the June selection for one of my book clubs, otherwise it is unlikely that this memoir would have drawn me in, but I did enjoy it. One of my teenagers was born over three months preterm, and
Amy | shoutame
Phenomenal - undoubtedly the best non-fiction book I have read so far this year.

This a non-fiction book in which Susannah Cahalan has documented a month of complete horror for herself and her family - a month when she went from being a completely 'normal' 24 year old woman to being strapped onto a gurney in a hospital with doctors and nurses contemplating admitting her to a psychiatric ward. It began with flu like symptoms which slowly evolved into constant paranoia - she experienced seizures bu
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I started this book last night, and couldn't put it down until I finished it this morning. I know her story all too well as I've been in a similar dark place myself. Aphasia, myoclonus, amnesia, jemais vu, hyperesthesia, allodynia, hemiparesis, paresthesia, cognitive impairment, impaired executive function, depersonalization, neuropsychological assessments, hemiplegic, acephalgic -- words that began to define my life just last year.

Her story is a remarkable one, but as a journalist, I believe sh
Po Po
Sep 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I cannot figure out why it is so difficult for me to write reviews for books I am passionate about, or which I loved! In looking back at the books I've read on, I realized that almost all of the highest rated books on my shelves have 2 sentence reviews, if any. I guess that's why it's taken a month to figure out what exactly I want to say about Brain on Fire, a medical memoir by journalist Susannah Cahalan.

Where do I begin?! Cahalan develops a mysterious illness over the course of
Apr 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Imagine one day you are fine, going to work and doing what you always done, then out of the blue you start acting strange. You become paranoid, eventually you start hearing voices and attempt jumping out of moving vehicles.

You must caught a bit of the crazy right?

Maybe not. This is what happened to Susannah Cahalen, a reporter for the New York Post. One morning she saw a couple of bug bites on her arm and was convinced she had a bed bug infestation. She brought exterminators into her home, even
Sep 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
Gripping....alarming....educational narrative about a rare disease through Susannah's account of what happened before and after her diagnosis. Those of us with an autoimmune disease can relate to this story. I don't share this part of my life often but it took 16 months for me to get diagnosed with myasthenia gravis. It's not as severe as anti-NMDA-receptor autoimmune encephalitis but not fun nonetheless. I think this is an important read for all in the medical field.

Lindsey Rey
Apr 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2015
Absolutely gripping and terrifying!
Sep 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in study of the brain
Shelves: memoirs
"Maybe it's true what Thomas Moore said," Susannah Cahalan writes,"it is only through mystery and madness that the soul is revealed." How else does one solve the puzzle of the devastating effects of illness, specifically illness of the brain? Some survive, maybe even thrive, while others remain in despondency. The true soul emerges through despair.
The healthy brain is a symphony of 100 billion neurons, the actions of each individual brain cell harmonizing into a whole that enables thoughts, mo
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: auto-bio
**A few spoilers ahead**

"I must be getting the flu, I thought.”
The doctors don’t actually know how it began for me. What’s clear is that if that man had sneezed on you, you’d most likely just get a cold. For me, it flipped my universe upside down and very nearly sent me to an asylum for life"

Our brain is everything. Without it, we are a shell. That’s something we may take for granted, because who wants to think about it. So what happens when something goes wrong, especially when it alters the
Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Psychology and Neuroscience fans
A must read for anyone interested in psychology, or neuroscience.

Susannah is a successful 24-year-old reporter. She has a good relationship with her boyfriend, her divorced parents, and her little cat.

Then she wakes up with a bug bite on her arm. She is convinced that bedbugs are infesting her apartment. She calls the exterminator to spray, even though he insists there's no sign of bugs.

And what's with all this junk? Why is she holding on to all this stuff? She starts to throw away everything sh
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Mar 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jeanette by: Judy
Rating = 3.5 stars

The most amazing thing about this book was that she was able to write it at all, given her descent into non-functionality. She is a lucky young woman indeed, in so many many ways.

For personal reasons, I'm not going to write a proper review of this book. What I have to say would most certainly invite irritating and argumentative comments from strangers, and I'm just NEVER in the mood for those people.
Ezgi Tülü
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Son zamanlarda kurguyla aram çok kötü olduğundan (bknz 2 yıldız verdiğim 3824 kitap), tür değiştirmeye ve kurguyla alakası olan her şeyde olabildiğince uzak bir kitap okumaya karar verdim. Oysa Beynimdeki Yangın o kadar uzun süredir kitaplığımda ki, kitabı ne zaman satın aldığımı bile anımsayamıyorum aslında. Kısmet bu güneymiş.

Kitap, New York Post'ta gazetecilik yapan Susannah Cahalan'ın başından geçen bir hastalığı anlatıyor. Hastalığın başlangıcından, iyileşmenin son aşamalarına kadar, yaklaş
Nov 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars. Equally fascinating and terrifying. I was a psych major, and I've been meaning to read more psych related nonfiction, and I'm pleased with this choice. There is quite a bit of psych/bio related information, but I think she manages to do it in a manner that isn't overwhelming. For me it was a nice refresher.

I think one of the most interesting aspects was her social commentary about what it means to possibly be mentally ill.

l also appreciated that throughout the book she is cognizant
Claire McAlpine
Jan 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A fascinating insight into a rare autoimmune disease which causes the body to attack itself and in this case - the brain. This truly is a story that can (and has) change lives, the writer, a reporter on the New York Post observes her own physical and mental decline and then as her mind descends into chaos, she recalls nothing. Her account is pulled together from interviews, hospital video footage and the journal of her family, until her brain begins to regenerate memory.

It's the path that many f
David Yoon
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
A true-life Dr. House mystery. What starts as two suspected bedbug bites for 20 something reporter Susannah Cahalan quickly escalates into hallucinations, out of body experiences, rampant paranoia and massive seizures. Doctors are stumped when MRIs and blood work come back clean and dismiss is as stress or drinking too much. It takes the persistence of her parents and the intervention of one Dr. Souhel Najjar and a simple paper and pencil test that sets her on a path to recovery. Cahalan digs th ...more
Julie Ehlers
This brief memoir is a bit difficult to review, because, more than with most memoirs, I feel like I'm really reviewing the most difficult period of Susannah Cahalan's life. A lot of memoirs use (or try to use) poetic language and attempt to reflect on a certain period of the author's life and how it affected them--all of which can make for good reading but can also set up a distance between the author and the events she's describing. This, on the other hand, is really a work of reporting. Cahala ...more
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Non-fiction account of/by journalist Susannah Cahalan who is struck down by a mysterious illness that nearly takes her sanity and her life.
This is her story of her illness, identifying her illness, her recovery and how it affected those around her.
Very interesting but very frightening - highly recommended!
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Brain on Fire is brilliant. I rarely give a 5 star rating. Ms. Cahalan writes the brutal truth---even when it isn't favorable towards her.
She doesn't attempt to persuade readers to pity her or think she is a heroine. She just writes the facts of her scary tale.
And it is frightening. It made me step back and wonder if I would be strong enough to battle back from something similar. Would my loved ones be willing to fight on my behalf when I wasn't able?
I applaud Susannah Cahalan for her honesty,
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
I haven't read any of Cahalan's reportage but I take it she's a better journalist than memoir writer. The book has the feel of an editor's hand massaging the words to be more "writerly" or engaging, but it doesn't quite work. A lot of adverbs, a lot of focus on how awful a particular moment was for this family member or that; basically a lot of telling. Thus, the writing falls flat, and the reader rarely feels an emotional connection to the narrator. I was interested, sure. I did want to find ou ...more
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Susannah Cahalan is the New York Times bestselling author of "Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness," a memoir about her struggle with a rare autoimmune disease of the brain. She writes for the New York Post. Her work has also been featured in the New York Times, Scientific American Magazine, Glamour, Psychology Today, and others.
More about Susannah Cahalan...

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“Sometimes, Just when we need them, life wraps metaphors up in little bows for us. When you think all is lost, the things you need the most return unexpectedly.” 82 likes
“We are, in the end, a sum of our parts, and when the body fails, all the virtues we hold dear go with it.” 64 likes
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