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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  186,916 ratings  ·  13,455 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
Kindle Edition, 290 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. …moreYes, I do. This is very interesting story. The human's brain is unpredictable and we never know what could happen on the next day. (less)

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 ·  186,916 ratings  ·  13,455 reviews

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Bonnie Jean
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 26, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"a touch of madness..."

"We are in the end the sum of our parts, and when the body fails, all the virtues we hold dear go with it."

Brain of Fire: My Month of Madness is a memoir written by Susannah Cahalan. The writer, who was working for the New York Post at that time, details in the book her struggle with a rare form of auto-immune disease, which is a type of brain inflammation, called encephalitis. The book is well-written – informative, engaging and valuable.

As the author herself points out
J.L.   Sutton
Mar 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Losing big chunks of your memory is a bit like losing who you are or who you thought you were. Because of a rare condition, Susannah Cahalan comes close to losing both her life and sanity before making a recovery. What I found most interesting about the recovery; however, is the question of whether we've come to the other end of the rabbit hole and are still who we think we are. How can we tell? Cahalan relies on friends and family to tell her she is who she was. This wasn't the focus of the sto ...more
I used to occasionally watch a show called Mystery Diagnosis where someone would come down with the strangest disease with the weirdest symptoms. They would go from doctor to doctor being misdiagnosed every time. In the end, a brilliant doctor who specializes in the strangest ailments would correctly diagnose the patient with a rare disease that affects 1 in a billion people. This book is basically an episode of that show.

Also, I am told that the show House was like that, but I never saw it.

Jen McLeod
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
Petra X - sadly 1 step forward & 2 back
Diagnosed schizophrenic. Psychotic or the victim of the greed of drug companies?

The last book I read was Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home, an experience of brain aneurysm and recovery. It was very so-so but the author's appealing personality added much to the book. I hoped that Brain on Fire, in the same genre, would be better. The author's personality didn't shine through, but this might have been a fact that she lost herself with her illness.

The illness, a rare, auto-i
Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
Interesting and terrifying read.
Apr 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jonathan Ashleigh
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Po Po
Sep 10, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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

3.5 stars

Susannah Cahalan

At the age of 24 Susannah Cahalan was doing just fine. She was lively, talkative, and fun-loving; she worked as a reporter for the New York Post; she lived in an apartment in Hell's Kitchen; and she had a great boyfriend named Stephen.

Then Susannah began to change: she forgot to prepare for an important work meeting; started to get migraines; felt compelled to snoop through Stephen's things; developed numbness.....then pins and needles. Before long these symptoms morph
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
LeAnne: GeezerMom
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
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
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
Stephanie *Eff your feelings*
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
Amy | littledevonnook
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, Susannah Cahalan
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness is a 2012 autobiography by writer Susannah Cahalan. The book narrates Cahalan's wakes up in a hospital with no memory of the events of the previous month, during which time she would have violent episodes and delusions. The book also covers Cahalan's life after her recovery, including her reactions to watching videotapes of her psychotic episodes while in the hospital. Cahalan also discusses her symptoms prior
April (Aprilius Maximus)
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Fascinating and terrifying.
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, 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 th
“Her brain is on fire," he repeated. "Her brain is under attack by her own body.”

This is a terrifying true account of how one woman's body betrayed her.

Approximately 50 million Americans (or one in five people) suffer from some form of autoimmune disease. Women are more likely to be affected than men. By some estimates, women make up 75% of those who are affected by autoimmune disease.

This gets pretty clinical in places, but the medical mystery keeps you hooked. One of the most important take-aw
Sep 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-4
This was a moving account of the terrifying experience writer Susannah Cahalan had with a rare/invisible illness that ravaged her body, causing seizures and delusions, and which none of her doctors could diagnose. Rare/invisible illness can be especially traumatic for patients because not only are you sick, but all your medical tests, sometimes dozens of medical tests, are coming back “normal.” You get accused of making up symptoms. Your symptoms get classified as “psychiatric.” It took months o ...more
Sep 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
Lisa Dunckley
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a terrifying true account of a normal, healthy, smart, successful young woman who suddenly slips into insanity.

She is an investigative reporter, and after her miraculous recovery she wrote this book, having to rely on interviews, medical records, and her friends and family's memories of the time that she was “gone”.

It is truly scary to think that this could happen to anyone of us—to slip into madness with no control over the matter. During various stages, she was violent, psychotic, or
BAM Endlessly Booked
Audio # 16
2018 Reading Challenge: about mental health

This book was incredible! I can't even explain to you how out of this world such a diagnosis seems and I'm sure the author felt the same way. To know she was treated in time to become 90% better (within one month!!!! of falling ill) is a godsend and a testament to the medical profession-that out of 9 doctors that misdiagnosed her (not kidding!) there was one who never gave up. So in a way i dont know how I feel about that. But her case has had
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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

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