Brain on Fire: A Must-Read Autobiography

This New Years, I made an unspoken resolution of sorts. I didn’t want to say I was doing a New Year's Resolution because I know how hard those can be to keep. I told myself that I would set a goal to try and read a book a month. If it didn’t happen, I’d be fine, but it was something to strive for. The month of January passed, and I started reading a book that I’ve had since the summer and never been able to make myself get through. To make up for my previous lack of reading, in January I finished that first book after a lot of procrastination, and I went ahead and started on another book because I was already behind.

I’ve been on a big non-fiction spree lately. The book I chose to read for the month of February was "Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness". I picked it up at Target on a whim because as we all know, you don’t go into Target knowing what you need, Target tells you what you need. I read the back of it and was intrigued, I made my friend read the summary for a second opinion and she thought it sounded strange. I got the book anyway. How can you say no to a New York Times bestseller?

I definitely think it was a good choice. I couldn’t put it down, I finished it in 2 days. The book was the autobiography of the New York Post writer Susannah Cahalan. It details Cahalan’s perfectly normal life, with a great job at the New York Post, a tiny apartment in New York that she calls home, and a boyfriend she is very into.  Her parents are divorced and prefer not to be in the same room together if possible. She is close with her mom, who is remarried, and not as close with her father, who also remarried. Everything is completely normal until she notices these bites on her arm. She assumes they are bedbugs and gets an exterminator into her apartment. She begins to second guess herself in her career and behave differently than normal in her day to day life, and the situation escalates from there. Although her case seems like it was much longer ago, she was diagnosed in 2007 with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. Along the way, her family was told many different diagnoses. The first doctor she went to blamed her behavior on too much alcohol. Eventually, the correct diagnosis was found. The book includes her life before her sickness, trying to diagnose what is wrong with her, and her life after the disease with her family and close friends by her side every step of the way.

If you’re looking for a real-life story that keeps you engaged this book is a great pick. You can read more about Cahalan and the book from this NPR interview. You can also find Susannah Cahalan on Twitter at @scahalan.

Thumbnail by on Unsplash.

Gif courtesy of giphy.

Book cover photo by Alli Coberth.