Book Review: Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire

Not an easy read, but a good read.

Not an easy read, but a good read. It will soon be a movie starring Dakota Fanning,

Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness is an addictive book that tells the story of Cahalan’s nightmarish medical mystery that attacked her brain and struck her with madness for weeks before being properly diagnosed as a rare autoimmune disorder. Cahalan, a New York Post journalist, was 24 years old at the time she began suffering from seizures that soon resulted in violent, paranoid and erratic outbursts. She was a driven, articulate, interesting and beautiful daughter, girlfriend and writer that woke up to find herself hospitalized for a month, surrounded by the best doctors in the world stumped by what was happening to her brain. Cahalan chronicles her insanity and her loved ones struggles to find out what depleted their intelligent Susannah into a catatonic, sometimes manic patient left without words and barely able to walk.

At first, there’s just darkness and silence.

“Are my eyes open? Hello?”

I can’t tell if I’m moving my mouth or if there’s even anyone to ask. It’s too dark to see. I blink once, twice, three times. There is a dull foreboding in the pit of my stomach. That, I recognize. My thoughts translate only slowly into language, as if emerging from a pot of molasses. Word by word the questions come: Where am I? Why does my scalp itch? Where is everyone? Then the world around me comes gradually into view, beginning as a pinhole, its diameter steadily expanding. Objects emerge from the murk and sharpen into focus.

I know immediately that I need to get out of here.


Cahalan lives to tell her story and her sheer strength as a journalist is evident as she investigates each doctor, every false diagnosis and reviews taped footage of her hospital stay. She interviews family members, nurses and doctors while providing a thorough understanding of the brain and its intricacies. There is not an ounce of vanity in Brain on Fire, Cahalan opens her life and her brain for all to see.

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Buy this book for your oldest pal.

Buy this book for your oldest pal.

Nickolas Butler’s smooth debut novel Shotgun Lovesongs is a poignant love story penned for the collective hometown we forget how much we love and miss. A mismatched group of music-loving Midwestern friends find themselves fleeing from, returning to, or being unable to leave their modest yet respectable Wisconsin upbringing. They adore each other and their hometown with a destructive and loyal fervor. The close-knit crew produces one wildly successful rock star, a defected rodeo cowboy and a few seemingly happily married couples. Beth, the sturdy, intelligent center of the group is loved by all and unaware of her influence on the men she’s known for as long as she’s known anything.

The book goes down like a smooth shot of whiskey bought for you by your long lost high school pal. Why do young adults run from the comforts of home just to be an unknown in a strange land? Is one’s first love the only real love? Are all relationships merely replacements for what once was? Butler tackles the sticky parts of growing up in a small town, failing and succeeding while one’s own little slice of Americana judges and applauds. 

Book Review: Ali In Wonderland: And Other Tall Tales, by Alexander Wentworth



Read it for an evening of laughs.

Read it for an evening of laughs.

Ali Wentworth’s memoir is about a woman that has a lot: Greek intellectual hunk George Stephanopoulos as a loving husband, a blue-blood pedigree that includes her mother, Nancy Reagan’s former White House Social Secretary as a mom and a family that is uproariously funny and dysfunctional.

The book recounts Ali’s nanny-filled upbringing in Washington D.C. to her wild boarding school days to her career in showbiz. Wentworth was a cast member of In Living Color, appeared on Seinfield and continues as a correspondent on Oprah. Her story is sprinkled with stories about pestering Henry Kissinger as a child, sleeping around in Hollywood and always finding solace in retreating to the Four Seasons.

There are no moments of clarity here, Ali offers no stories of hitting rock bottom, no eating disorders, drug overdoses, no real failing or suffering from much other than a case of slight heartbreak. This is a funny memoir about a privileged and intelligent woman that sheds her posh roots to claw her way into comedy and finds her way back into the political stratosphere by marrying political journalist and former Clinton insider Stephanopoulos. Along the way, highlights include a very wrong and short dalliance with cocaine, a juicy relationship with an unnamed Hollywood producer and stories on how a rich, young liberal woman came to shock and awe the political world.


She’s there. I wonder if she was friends with Fly Girl Jennifer Lopez? Probably not.