Oh boy, have I been reading like crazy lately…and busy!  I just finished Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. When I read non-fiction, which isn’t often, I love books like this. It was fascinating.


What Is Brain on Fire About?

Brain on Fire is the memoir of a young woman who suddenly wakes up in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, with no memory of how she got there. “Days before,” says the back cover, “she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper.” It’s the story of her abrupt and unexplained descent into madness, her month in it, of which she has no memory but which she pulled together from the journals of family members, doctors’ notes, and surveillance footage, and recovery from it.

It is both fascinating and well-written.  Susannah details many of her weird behaviors, like how she became violent, psychotic, and bent on escape after she woke up, and how she repeatedly held her arms out in front of her body like a zombie, not sure why but unable to control the movement. She also became, by turns, paranoid and catatonic. She also  explores the various hypotheses put forward by doctors to explain it, and the incredibly convoluted journey towards diagnosis and treatment.

What’s the Deal?

You can get a used copy in good condition on Thriftbooks for $3.99.

Who Would Like Brain on Fire, And Why?,

As mentioned, anyone who likes well-written books, especially those like I’m Eve and Sybil will like this book. It’s a book that reveals the fragility of the human mind,. It makes you at once so very thankful for the sanity that you enjoy while also heartsick for Susannah and her family.

Can you recommend other memoirs of people with mental or neurological illnesses?

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