Book 46 of 52: A Brain Wider than the Sky: A Migraine Diary

Fair warning: my brain and writing ability have briefly left me. I’m not surprised — I hit a major deadline last Thursday, and my brain typically shuts off after such an event. Here’s a better explaination.

I’m starting to come out of it, but rather than wait for 100 percent function to write the review, I’ll share it with you now because I like to write the review the day I finish the book.

I don’t suffer migraines. My brother did, though. He’d throw up, lock himself into a room, and fall asleep. He still gets them sometimes, I believe, but not as bad as Andrew Levy, author of A Brain Wider Than the Sky: A Migraine Diary, a fascinating and painful-to-read book about living with migraines.

I had no idea that migraines could affect your vision, or last for months at a time. I also didn’t know how many artists either suffered migraines or are thought to have suffered migraines: Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Picasso, Elvis. The title comes from a line of Dickenson’s poetry. According to Levy, scholars think that Charles Dodgson, author of Alice in Wonderland, either suffered migraines or wrote what children described to him as migraines: the falling down a hole, feeling like you’re tall and small, not being able to speak in the sentences you form in your head.

To a non-sufferer, it’s scary, and I don’t know how people cope with it. There’s no sure-fire fix, either, and Levy experiments with different ways to just make the pain go away.

If you suffer migraines or know someone who does, it’s well worth the read. Even if you don’t know of someone who comes out and says “I have them,” you might and they might be silent about it — 12 percent of Americans get migraines, and 50 percent more people suffer from migraines than depression. Yikes.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.


  1. Melissa on June 2, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    I'm a migraine sufferer, so this book sounds interesting to me. Fascinating about Alice in Wonderland …. that is EXACTLY what mine feel like (falling down a hole, feeling tall and small, etc.) Never thought of it like that before.

  2. Sue on June 4, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I just started reading this book yesterday, as someone who has been controlled much of her life by migraines I was almost teary as I read the introduction and Levy's descriptions of migraine symptons. So often I have felt unable to put into words the ways a migraine effects me, both physically and emotionally. He has nailed it.

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