E-books/audiobooks reviews: non-fiction

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 January, 2013, 5:00pm

John McAfee's Last Stand
by Joshua Davis
Amazon Digital Services (e-book)

Anyone following the case of John McAfee will grasp the complicated nature of his predicament by reading this Kindle Single by Joshua Davis, who investigated the former software entrepreneur's life in Belize before he fell under suspicion there in connection with the murder of his neighbour. Among other ventures, McAfee, the maker of anti-virus software sold to Intel in 2010 for US$7.68 billion, was behind a jungle lab in Belize conducting research into natural antibiotics. The government accused him of drug trafficking and assembling a private army. McAfee did surround himself with arms: he was fond of playing Russian roulette and he hired guards when he feared Belize's Gang Suppression Unit was out to get him. But McAfee, who blamed drugs for almost destroying his life, seemed staunchly to be against them. As Davis stresses, however, he is a web of contradictions. Now in the US, having been deported from Guatemala, McAfee will no doubt provide fodder for more books.


Brain on Fire
by Susannah Cahalan
Free Press (e-book)

Brain on Fire is part Oliver Sacks, part House, except it's not the work of a neurologist or made-for-TV fiction. The book recalls the months in which author Susannah Cahalan, a young New York Post journalist, succumbs to an extremely rare autoimmune disease that sees her descending from flu-like symptoms to suffering paranoia, rage, hallucinations, slurring and seizures. She foams at the mouth and spurts blood, which alarm all around her, including her parents and boyfriend, who care for her in the lead-up to her being admitted to hospital, where doctors are baffled. Then one doctor, Souhel Najjar, has an "epiphany" and concludes that her brain is being attacked by her own body. "Her brain is on fire," he explains. Steroids, which suppress inflammation, form part of the treatment alongside antipsychotics and antianxiety medications, although Cahalan fears never regaining the "spark" that defined her old self. This book should absorb even readers who don't care for medical mysteries.