Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

88%

17 Critic Reviews

At its best, Cahalan’s prose carries a sharp, unsparing, tabloid punch in the tradition of Pete Hamill and Jimmy
-NY Times

Synopsis

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. Days earlier, 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. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?

In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family’s inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen. “A fascinating look at the disease that…could have cost this vibrant, vital young woman her life” (People), Brain on Fire is an unforgettable exploration of memory and identity, faith and love, and a profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic.
 

About Susannah Cahalan

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SUSANNAH CAHALAN is a news reporter at the New York Post whose award-winning work has also been featured in The New York Times. She lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. HEATHER HENDERSON has brought her authentic, resonant voice and a full cast of characters (from a Scots nanny to a Fargo housewife) to hundreds of projects during her 20-year career. She earned her doctorate at the Yale School of Drama, and her credits include production dramaturgy on the world premiere of August Wilson’s Fences. She has published arts features and reviews in newspapers across the U.S. and has won awards for poetry and screenwriting. What seems to impress people most, though, is that she was an extra in Animal House.
 
Published November 13, 2012 by Free Press. 290 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Professional & Technical, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Apr 28 2013
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Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
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Critic reviews for Brain on Fire
All: 17 | Positive: 16 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Above average
Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Jul 17 2012

A valiant attempt to recount a mostly forgotten experience, though the many questions that remain may prove frustrating to some readers.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Greenberg on Dec 21 2012

At its best, Cahalan’s prose carries a sharp, unsparing, tabloid punch in the tradition of Pete Hamill and Jimmy

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Aida Edemariam on Jan 24 2013

Brain on Fire is an account – comprehensively, impressively reported – of how this imperviousness was punctured in the most dramatic possible way.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on Sep 24 2012

A fast-paced and well-researched trek through a medical mystery to a hard-won recovery.

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Blog Critics

Excellent
Reviewed by Nancy Fontaine on Nov 29 2012

Even though it is clear from the outset she recovered, Brain on Fire reads like a frantic medical mystery, leaving the reader needing to know what happens next.

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NPR

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Schaub on Nov 14 2012

Brain on Fire comes from a place of intense pain and unthinkable isolation, but finds redemption in Cahalan's unflagging, defiant toughness. It's an unexpected gift of a book from one of America's most courageous young journalists.

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NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Laura Schultz on Nov 13 2012

A lack of understanding of the basics does not detract from the power and impact of the underlying story, which is thoroughly engrossing.

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Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Eileen Zimmerman Nicol on Nov 16 2012

Her gratitude at surviving and journalistic skills combine to create a fascinating read.

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Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by Sarah Barmak on Jan 04 2013

Here, Brain on Fire has the potential to change untold lives. For that reason alone, it’s a much-needed achievement.

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The Washington Post

Above average
Reviewed by Maggie Scarf on Jan 17 2013

Cahalan’s tale is told in straightforward journalistic prose and is admirably well-researched and described.

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USA Today

Excellent
Reviewed by Lindsay Deutsch on Nov 21 2012

A fast-paced medical mystery that's hard to put down, as if watching a slow-motion car crash in which you know the driver somehow escapes.

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Macleans

Excellent
Reviewed by Anne Kingston on Nov 09 2012

Her book is a testament to the complexity and fragility of neural function, and how it shapes who we are. And also to the strengths and failures of the medical system, which still has so much more to learn.

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Seattle PI

Excellent
Reviewed by Nancy Fontaine on Nov 29 2012

I couldn't put it down, and I bet you won't be able to either.

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Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by Sarah Barmak on Jan 05 2013

Here, Brain on Fire has the potential to change untold lives. For that reason alone, it’s a much-needed achievement.

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The New Republic

Excellent
Reviewed by Leslie Jamison on Nov 29 2012

Cahalan has managed to write a book that feels honest and uncomfortable. 

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The New Republic

Good
Reviewed by Leslie Jamison on Nov 29 2012

...Cahalan has managed to write a book that feels honest and uncomfortable. Her prose isn’t particularly stunning, but it’s not the point.

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The Courier-Journal

Excellent
Reviewed by Deborah Yetter on Jan 11 2013

A hellish slide into paranoia and psychosis she documents meticulously in her book “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness.”

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Reader Rating for Brain on Fire
87%

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Eric Brown 6 Jul 2014

Rated the book as 4 out of 5

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Kelli Garza 27 Feb 2014

Liked the book

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Kelli Garza 26 Oct 2013

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