Susannah Cahalan’s latest book tour!

The author of the best-selling BRAIN ON FIRE is back with a riveting investigation into the life and works of David Rosenhan, the late Stanford psychologist known for his influential views that challenge the validity of psychiatric diagnoses. Her tour schedule of The Great Pretender is below. If you live in or near a city where she will be speaking, I urge you to attend.

I’m taking the liberty of reprinting the book-tour schedule sent to me and others this morning by my friend Susannah Cahalan. You may recall Susannah’s stunning 2012 memoir Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, in which she chronicled her own descent into what appeared to be severe mental illness until she was rescued by a brilliant doctor who recognized it as a rare autoimmune disease of the brain. The 2016 film adaptation starred Chloe Grace Moretz as Cahalan.

Susannah’s new book, The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission that Changed Our Understanding of Madness, builds upon the skills and awareness that she developed compiling her first book; yet its range of inquiry and analysis is of a different magnitude.

Susannah Cahalan – Author of The Great Pretender

In the 1970s, David Rosenhan sent seven volunteers into various psychiatric asylums around the country to test the validity of the doctors’ diagnoses and conclusions. The results shattered existing opinions of psychiatry and led to the closing of several hospitals. In this masterpiece of dogged, almost incomprehensibly persistent intellectual detective-work and sustained reasoning, Cahalan has exposed the flaws, the deceptions and the distorted understandings that found their way into society on the ballast of Rosenthal’s influence. The book is destined to become a standard of its genre and a daunting model for immersive journalism.

Here is Susan Cahalan’s tour schedule:


Barnes & Noble —  Upper East Side in conversation with the marvelous  Melissa Dahl, science editor and author of  Cringeworthy, a book I LOVE.


Books are Magic with the loves of my life, fellow  Sob Sisters  Ada Calhoun and  Karen Abbott, brilliant authors of many amazing books, which you all should read.


Carroll Lutheran Village—  sponsored by A Likely Story Bookstore


Brookline Booksmith –  sign up here


ZACK — sponsored by  Left Bank Books

in conversation with the legendary St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist  Bill McClellan.


Magers & Quinn —  sign up here The Great Pretender‘s own “footnote” will be making a special appearance….(earlier in the day I will be doing a talk at the University of Minneapolis, email me for details).


Upstairs at Murray’s Literary Series –  Oblong Books.


Town Hall Seattle Science Series – sign up on Facebook here.


Powell’s City of Books –  sign up on Facebook here.


Kepler’s Books —  sign up here in conversation with  Dr. Shaili Jain, psychiatrist and author of the beautiful book about trauma and PTSD  The Unspeakable Mind.


Commonwealth Club –  more details in conversation with the inimitable Judge LaDoris Cordell, pioneer, advocate, musician, artist, writer, and friend.


Miami Book Festival In conversation with bestselling author/therapist/dynamo  Lori Gottlieb, author of  Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.


Mark Twain House 

Moderated by psychiatrist Dr. Harold Schwartz


New York Public Library — details to come!

In conversation with journalist/author Luke Dittrich, author of one of my favorite non-fiction titles ever Patient HM.


People tend to believe that writers write to make money. There’s actually something to that, given the givens. But dollars are not the only motive. Not all writers are obsessed with chasing the Golden Fleece of the Best Seller—not after building up the scar tissue of a few published-but-obscure books, anyway.

It has been my experience that writers who survive their shattered early dreams and press on are writers who care about the craft of writing. These writers write mainly to be understood.

This is why the endorsement of NO ONE CARES ABOUT CRAZY PEOPLE, written by Susannah Cahalan and posted below, means something special to me.

Photo Credit: By Pam Margolis [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: By Pam Margolis [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Ms. Cahalan is the author of the 2012 New York Times bestselling memoir BRAIN ON FIRE: MY MONTH OF MADNESS. I have never met Ms. Cahalan, so I can’t say for certain whether or not she set out to write a best-selling book. My instincts tell me that this was a secondary consideration at best. My instincts tell me that she wrote this book for the reason most writers write good books. She wrote it because it was a book that she could not not write. She wrote it to be understood.

Susannah Cahalan was a young rising star of New York journalism and an avatar of the Fabulous life when at age 24 she was blindsided by a hideous brain affliction—triggered by a mysterious pathogen—that inflamed her brain, drove her to grotesque behavior, and threatened to obliterate her very identity. She was saved, and restored, through the intervention of an acutely observant physician after nearly everyone else had decided that she was a hopeless schizophrenic. In a sustained act of will nearly as arduous as the attack on her brain, she traced the narrative of her temporary madness by interrogating her own damaged memory and those of her relatives and friends. The result is a raw, eloquent, unsparing narrative of personal witness that now stands as a beacon for those who don’t understand the forces that can ravage our fragile brains, but who want to understand. Susannah Cahalan wanted to understand, and then to be understood.

I’m going on here a bit because I want to make it clear how much I value Ms. Cahalan’s notice, on two levels: first, as one “citizen” of the mental-illness sub-nation reaching out to another, and second, as a writer reaching out to a writer. We writing creatures are a lot less secure in our self-evaluations than you might expect by looking at our, uh, deathless prose. We spend a lot of time wondering whether we are making an imprint on the world, or even making sense.

Susannah Cahalan, you understand, and you deserve to be understood. Thank you.



“No One Cares About Crazy People” is a woefully necessary kick in the teeth to society’s understanding and treatment of mental illness. Reading Ron Powers is always an event — you can expect expert research and rich reporting in an engrossing style — but what makes this book soar is the passion of Powers’ conviction based off his own intimate experiences with schizophrenia. I put this book down days ago and I’m still reeling. It’s the rare book that breaks your life into a before and an after.