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The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  5,892 ratings  ·  449 reviews
Winner of the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, The Noonday Demon examines depression in personal, cultural, and scientific terms. Drawing on his own struggles with the illness and interviews with fellow sufferers, doctors and scientists, policy makers and politicians, drug designers and philosophers, Andrew Solomon reveals the subtle complexities and shee ...more
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Published January 28th 2002 by Simon & Schuster Audio (first published 2000)
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Mar 18, 2008 Jeff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ever been or known someone who was sad?
hands-down the best nonfiction book i've ever read, _the noonday demon_ is exhaustive in its examination of depression and mental illness, weaving the author's and others' experiences with "major depressive breakdown" with rigorous research on scientific, anthropological, evolutionary, political, artistic and historical perspectives on the emotion/disease.

solomon engages difficult philosophical questions like whether the blunting of depression by SSRIs is worth its cost in human emotional plasti
Jenny (Reading Envy)
"The survivors stay on pills, waiting... We go on. You cannot choose whether you get depressed and you cannot choose when or how you get better, but you can choose what to do with the depression, especially when you come out of it."
This was an incredible book that took me months to read, a dense mighty tome about depression. It weaves together the author's personal experience of multiple breakdowns and decades of treatments with other narratives, scientific research, historical background, and s
This was a good book, but I found it more scholarly, less readable and harder to get through than similar books such as Peter Whybrow's A Mood Apart and Lewis Wolpert's Malignant Sadness. Perhaps this is because Solomon cites a lot of philosophers. He has extensive notes, but the book itself isn't footnoted; you have to go to the back and sort of guess what bits in each chapter the notes are referring to. That's frustrating. I do, however, think this book is valuable, particularly the chapter on ...more
especially recommended for anyone who has ever dealt personally with depression. the scope that solomon attempts is vast, covering literature, history, psychology, sociology, politics, anthropology, etc etc. though many questions go unanswered, from the start he is honest about the intention of the book and it is not to give answers. if anything it is to raise questions. what we get is a valuable overview of a complex and misunderstood mental illness that can only help to further the dialogue.
A piercing, painful, and oh-so-necessary book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression examines depression through a cultural, personal, and scientific lens. Andrew Solomon, well-known for his TED Talks and his varied publications, reveals the agonizing depths of the illness as well as its progression through time. His thoughtful and insightful perspective supplements his extensive research, and he analyzes several of depression's facets: how it spans different parts of the world, how it affec ...more
I bought this book a few months ago at an amazing used bookstore in New Orleans. I guess it had been improperly shelved in the religion section. Amazing book for anyone who has struggled with clinical depression or has family/friends with depression/bipolar disorder. Addresses the subject partially anecdotally, but also from sociological, biological, economic, and historical perspectives.

There have many eloquent and accurate reviews of this book (by Joyce Carol Oates, William Styron, Edmund Wh
After slogging through a large chunk of The Noonday Demon, I've come to accept I just can't see it through to the end. This book is lethal: alternately depressing readers, boring readers, and making readers roll their eyes so hard they pop out of their heads.

First: depression on any level, mild or major, brief or chronic, is a painful, crippling ailment. Anyone who pulls themselves up and fights automatically earns a bit of my respect. I know how hard the attack is and how hopeless it can seem.

I first read this shortly after it came out, and I remember liking it then. Apparently I have become a much pickier reader of nonfiction in the last decade, as I liked it much less this time around.

The Noonday Demon is unsatisfactory on a number of fronts. As science writing, it's insufficiently rigorous and awfully anecdotal; it tends toward summary and eschews proper footnotes in the name of "readability". I like footnotes and citations; I find most arguments for avoiding them in this kind of
Depression: more complicated than the Lexapro ads would have you believe.

An intelligent and very thorough interdisciplinary introduction, but with a publication date of 2002, it hews pretty close to the serotonin-oriented theories of depression (although Solomon does a nice job of explaining how very little is known about how Prozac-generation antidepressants actually work, even though they clearly DO work). Since then, medical research has gone on to explore models of depression that explore t
Randy Mcdonald
Andrew Solomon’s 2001 book The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression is the book that made Solomon’s name internationally, a survey of depression that avoids the survey’s flaws of superficially recounting its symptoms, its history, its treatments.

The Noonday Demon is a comprehensive survey of the issue that begins powerfully by recounting his own experiences: when his depressions began, what triggered it, what it felt like, what worsened it, what could start to make it better. Without his person
Bleak Mouse
Harrowing, fascinating, moving -- and depressing. My sole problem, if indeed it is a problem, is that the author (as he remarks of Robert Burton embraces the paradoxes and contradictions rather than reconciling them. So prepare to be a bit confused by too much information, although all of it is vital -- in one context or another.
Richard Bernstein of the New York Times referred to this book as "All-encompassing, brave, and deeply humane." This is why he gets the big bucks: with those few words, he succinctly captures the essence of Solomon's approach to his subject. "All-encompassing" because Solomon breaks down the science of depression's condition and treatment, unpacks its global history, examines its sociology both via population statistics and cultural context(s), and illustrates all of it with stories of real peopl ...more
Probably the best book I have read for a long time. The War and Peace of depression. A compelling, comprehensive, personal, tightly written, passionate and well researched exploration of depression in all its darkness at noon dimensions. I read it too fast in a few sittings, because I found it so compelling. And I found huge insights in his experience;even the most extreme of his experiences, because he writes like a traveler back from a largely unexplored, often denied, uncomfortable not well r ...more
Nov 21, 2013 Tina rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone whose life has been touched in anyway by depression, and everyone else!
Shelves: favorites
I've had recurring major depression for almost 2 years now, and it's been just over a year since I took a medical leave from college to address it at home. I can't even begin to explain how overwhelmingly impossible it can feel to talk about my depression, even with my family, or even acknowledge it honestly to myself when I'm having a better day than usual and can do basic daily activities that most people don't even think twice about (outside in public no less!). Considering what I've experien ...more
Chun Mei
Aug 09, 2007 Chun Mei rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want to learn more about depression
I love this book for many reasons. Andrew Solomon talks about depression in the context of biology, history, politics,and poverty. He also shares his own story of longterm depression and the stories of individuals and communities in the US, Cambodia and Greenland. The book is more for people who want to gain a greater understanding of depression rather than people who want to be lifted out of a depression. But don't worry, the book itself is focused too much on how people experience and overcome ...more
If you have a problem with someone interspersing personal anecdotes into a non-fiction book, perhaps you should choose something more academic on the subject of depression.

If, on the other hand, if you are interested in reading of personal experiences of that most personal of afflictions, as well as a wealth of other information, both objective and subjective, on depression, perhaps you should read this book.

It isn't a perfect achievement. But it is compelling all the way through, and written c
Jan 03, 2008 Alegra rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alegra by: Rebecca
I really liked this book. I'm on a psychology major and it really gave a different perspective to my studies. It explains absolutely every topic you can relate to depression. It is not depressing in itself, rather informative. What best way to tackle an enemy if not by learning all you can about it? I loved this book, and I really love the friend that refered it to me!
The best book on depression I've seen; I had to hold myself back from photocopying so many of the passages to pass out to friends and family, to say THIS IS WHAT IT IS LIKE. The only reason I can't give it five stars is because it was so heavy it took me months to get it through it. Its importance goes far beyond 5 out of 5 stars though.
Joseph D. Walch
I know depression is a great malady in this postmodern nihilistic world, but reading this book gave me wonder how somebody who was born into privilage with all the leisure and worldly advantage that is denied 99.9% of the worlds population (who don't have private horse-riding lessons and attend posh private schools--who don't have the opportunity to fall into deep depression while on a 3 month tour of Europe, who may choose to end their lives slowly with alcohol instead of flying to London to pu ...more
I really loved this book and would've given it five stars but for two issues:

1. It was really only about severe depression, not depression in general. While those stories are obviously important and deserve to be told, the majority of people who suffer from depression do not have major breakdowns, lose their jobs and friends, get hospitalized, or undergo ECT or psychosurgery. It would've been nice if the book gave more attention to those with milder forms of depression.

2. The fact that Solomon d
The Noonday Demon is one of the most outstanding works of nonfiction I've read in the last decade. It's unusual for a book to be as learned and exhaustively researched as this one, while at the same time possessing such grace and humanity. And may I add that The Noonday Demon is funny? Yes, this book about despair, which has as its centerpiece the author's account of his own three psychological breakdowns, is often quite amusing, because Solomon is alert to the genuine absurdities and ironies th ...more
Ivana Jiménez juárez
When you are depressed, it's hard to put your thoughts into words and the world seems like a dull, dark place. Sometimes, if you're lucky, the world might seem bright but you feel so heavy and tired you cannot possibly reach it. Don't worry: Andrew Solomon puts all of this beautifully -yet honestly- into words.

Andrew goes through many aspects of depression: existentialism, different kinds of treatment, suicide and the right-to-die movement, depression outside of the "first world", the importance
Critics assert that this book does not depress and I found that to be the case. The book is aptly subtitled "an Atlas of depression" as coverage is multi-perspective (different experts, cultures, genders, times, and afflictions) as well as thorough in approach (history, treatment, politics, evolution, etc.). Completeness without repetition has been rare in books of this length I've read recently.

I wouldn't recommend this book to folks, per se. It's not a difficult read. It's not a depressing rea
Didn't change my world (like Far from the Tree did), but a brave and page turning combination of memoir and history/summary/study of the stories and science of depression. Solomon is a wise (young, when he wrote this book) man and his insights are persuasive.

It's interesting to see also how fifteen years has changed the acceptance level of psychiatric drugs. At least in my corner of the world it's not scandalous or sad when someone is on an SSRI or has a script for valium for rough days. And al
Not sure why this won the National Book Award - there were some good points contained in it, but he basically gives a free pass to over medicating the public, contributes to the harmful stereotypes of people experiencing mental suffering and does not question things I think should be questioned and challenged. He touts his fulfillment of his "social responsibility" by writing but then, not three paragraphs later, admits to writing about only people he liked - as if a) that gets you off the hook ...more
An important, comprehensive, compassionate book about depression, the seemingly ubiquitous plague of modernity. As always, Solomon is gracious and thoughtful in his portrayals of real stories (continually and gently humanizing the face of the illness, both with his own experience and the experiences of others), and thorough and incisive in the sweeping scope of his research. After chapters of the various methods of reckoning with depression (whether physically or philosophically), the book ends ...more
Razvan Zamfirescu
Prin cărțile pe care le-am citit am ajuns să înțeleg și mesajul ascuns, uneori frustrat, al unei personalități forțate să scrie despre un volum care nu-i este pe plac pentru a pune în funcțiune mașinăria propagandistică a editurii.
Mircea Cărtărescu, De Profundis, prefață la Demonul amiezii: Ajuns aici trebuie să o spun deschis: nu sunt cu adevărat demn să scriu acestă prefață, și nu în primul rând din cauza limitelor mele intelectuale (ne sultor ultra crepidam). (...) Așa încât nu pot spune cu a
Dorothyanne Brown
Andres Solomon takes readers through the valley of despair in his book, The Noonday Demon, a national book award winning tome that describes despair and mental torment in such lovely language it is like trailing one's fingertips through cold water. Shocking, numbing, and yet oddly entrancing.
Solomon's discussion of his own experiences and those of people he has been interacting with is heartbreaking. The depth of pain they have experienced is harrowing. It is hard to imagine the mind that turns
Alejandro Canton-Dutari
The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon
Reviewed by Alex Canton-Dutari
From an objective, almost clinical viewpoint, this book deals with the subject of Depression in a way that helps the normal reader understand the dynamics of the illness. It should be a required reading in psychopathology courses.
I wrote 'normal' to refer to people who have never had a bona fide episode of depression. The suffering exposed by the personal experiences so vividly detailed in the text may create a unique awareness.
Adrianne Mathiowetz
I have been reading this for like a year. Maybe more. Then one day I realized that the last 130 pages are notes, and that I had been almost done with the thing for like a year. Maybe more.

I can't possibly go into all the ways that I love this book. It strikes the perfect balance between research and personal experience. It's accessible without being dumbed down, it's fascinating without being fantastical, it's an unforced narrative, it's a million things you didn't know before, and it's just pla
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Andrew Solomon writes about politics, culture, and health. He lives in New York and London. He has written for many publications--such as the New York Times, The New Yorker and Artforum--on topics including depression, Soviet artists, the cultural rebirth of Afghanistan, Libyan politics, and deaf culture. He is also a Contributing Writer for Travel and Leisure. In 2008, he was awarded the Humanita ...more
More about Andrew Solomon...
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity A Stone Boat The Reckoning: Searching for Meaning with the Father of the Sandy Hook Killer The Irony Tower: Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost Oleg Vassiliev: Memory Speaks (Themes and Variations)

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“Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don't believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it's good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason.” 1358 likes
“It is important not to suppress your feelings altogether when you are depressed. It is equally important to avoid terrible arguments or expressions of outrage. You should steer clear of emotionally damaging behavior. People forgive, but it is best not to stir things up to the point at which forgiveness is required. When you are depressed, you need the love of other people, and yet depression fosters actions that destroy that love. Depressed people often stick pins into their own life rafts. The conscious mind can intervene. One is not helpless.” 301 likes
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