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Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Brain on Fire (edition 2012)

by Susannah Cahalan

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1,221836,528 (3.97)54
Title:Brain on Fire
Authors:Susannah Cahalan
Info:Free Press (2012), Edition: 1, Kindle Edition, 290 pages
Collections:Your library, Four/Five stars
Tags:Brain disease, Encephalitis, Medicine, Mental illness, New York Post, Memoir, Hospitals, Doctors, Neurology, Nonfiction

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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

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In general, I find medical mysteries fascinating but found this book rather dull. Despite being a member of a health care profession, I found much of the material was relayed in a dry, technical manner and there was a lot of repetitiveness and sensationalism. Halfway through, I ended up speed reading/skimming to the end. It is an important story to tell, thus the 2 stars, but perhaps it should have remained a magazine article. ( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
A smart and brave book. Her prose is stunning. The story is at times scary and leaves you feeling dark and cold but the warmth of her friends and family and the strength of her parents determination to save her is very inspiring. ( )
  Shelby-Lamb-Author | Jan 17, 2017 |
Riveting is defined as: "completely engrossing; compelling." This is a near-perfect description of Brain on Fire. I actually bought it for my son who is graduating soon with a degree in Neuroscience, but once I started reading it I found I couldn't stop. In two days I devoured it. It is at once fascinating and frightening. Several years ago I fell 18 feet from a ladder and could easily have died or been permanently disabled, and have remarked since then my amazement at how fragile and yet how durable our bodies are. This book delivers that message in spades.
It is also a powerful insight into, and indictment of, physicians and a medical system that place more value on a quick and facile diagnosis than on the correct diagnosis. Her life was saved by the ability to "think" by one physician out of approximately 20 who reviewed her case. Without his ability to look at a bigger picture she would likely have died, or been permanently assigned to a psychiatric hospital.
Weaving together personal anecdotes with scientific explanations of what was happening in her brain, Ms. Cahalan keeps you nailed to your seat, riveted, wanting to read one more sentence, one more paragraph, one more chapter, until the evening has long gone, and you still can't go to sleep until you know how this gets resolved. Even after the resolution her journalistic skills in conducting autopsies of events makes you continue to want to know more.
This books brings out a range of emotions, and you ride them like the schizophrenic roller-coaster she describes of her behaviors, and her symptoms; no sooner do you hit the bottom of one hill then you find yourself propelled toward a higher, and even more terrorizing one.
If you are looking for a book that will completely capture your attention, and keep you riveted, this is it. Be forewarned - you will have a hard time getting up once you sit down and start reading. ( )
  bjtimm | Nov 8, 2016 |
(42) This was really interesting and a quick read for me. Caught my eye in Target of all places. A memoir is typically a genre I loathe but the medical mystery subject matter was intriguing and in fact I was unable to place the disease as I read along. Susannah Cahalan is a young reporter from the NY Post who seems to have a psychotic break. A sad case of schizophrenia with the exception of seizures and and weird movements that ultimately leads to suspicion of a rare neurologic disorder. Susannah has no memory of her 'month of madness' but writes the memoir as a journalist, relying on interviews, diaries, and videos of herself and people close to her during her hospitalization.

The writing was a bit frenetic, better at the beginning than during her recovery. The recovery part dragged on and the immediacy and dramatic tension of the narrative being over, one just wanted the whole thing to wrap up. But really, that is a small criticism - it overall was very compelling and put the intricacies of neurology including micrographs of her brain biopsy into layman's terms with a certain degree of artistry.

From my doctor's perspective I thought for sure she had Mad Cow disease which I have only read about but never seen and as a gynecologist, I actually learned something new that this condition has been associated with ovarian teratomas. A quick entertaining and intriguing read. I am so glad she is OK, and I truly empathized with her. I think those who like Lisa Genova's 'Still Alice,' and 'Left Neglect' will ilke this. ( )
  jhowell | Oct 29, 2016 |
This compelling memoir tells the story of the author's terrifying brush with madness. A journalist by trade, Cahalan tracks down the cause of her month-long stint of insanity. A must-read for fans of Sylvia Plath's A Bell Jar.
  mcmlsbookbutler | Oct 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
"..a fascinating and compelling story told in a smart, succinct style.."
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I have felt that odd whirr of wings in the head.
                                 —Virginia Woolf, A Writer's Diary:
              Being Extracts from the Diary of Virginia Woolf
Dedicated to those without a diagnosis
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Maybe it all began with a bug bite, from a bedbug that didn't exist.
If all I can remember are hallucinations, how can I rely on my own mind?
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The story of twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan and the life-saving discovery of the autoimmune disorder that nearly killed her -- and that could perhaps be the root of "demonic possessions" throughout history.

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