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The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  12,772 ratings  ·  1,051 reviews
With uncommon humanity, candor, wit, and erudition, award-winning author Andrew Solomon takes the reader on a journey of incomparable range and resonance into the most pervasive of family secrets. His contribution to our understanding not only of mental illness but also of the human condition is truly stunning.

The Noonday Demon examines depression in personal, cultural, an
Paperback, 576 pages
Published April 2nd 2002 by Scribner (first published 2000)
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Yoshi According to Wikipedia: A new edition was published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 2015 that added a chapter about new treatments for depression. The u…moreAccording to Wikipedia: A new edition was published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 2015 that added a chapter about new treatments for depression. The update was mentioned during a NPR Fresh Air interview of Solomon and a New York Times article he authored.(less)

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Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Leo .
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Down, so down, oh! The sorrow, I could drown
Overwhelming emotions, crowding my mind
It gets me down, this mundane grind
Like groundhog day, perpetual recurrence
Day in, day out, such annoyance
I'm starting with the man in the mirror, the Abyss
Lose the Ego, and find my bliss

Depression sucks! I suffer with acute insomnia as a symptom. This is when I do a great deal of my writing during the witching hours. Here is one of my many rhymes:


 Tick Tock... Tick Tock...Tick Tock

In my head or simply on
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"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
Nov 29, 2008 rated it did not like it
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.

Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
And this ladies and gentlemen, is how you write about depression.
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
Feb 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
”If there is anything we’ve learned in the addiction field,” says Herbert Kleber, “it’s that once you get addicted — it doesn’t matter how you got there — you have a disease with a life of its own. If you treat a depressed alcoholic with an antidepressant, you produce a non-depressed alcoholic.” Taking away the original motivation for abusing substances does not free someone who has developed a pattern of substance abuse.

The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon won the 2001 National Book Award for No
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
Kate Savage
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Abbreviation of everything below: I recommend reading the first two chapters and skimming the rest.

“I know nothing," the painter Gerhard Richter once wrote. "I can do nothing. I understand nothing. I know nothing. Nothing. And all this misery does not even make me particularly unhappy.” (45)

Solomon, in the middle of his own depression, went through a monumental effort to write this book. And my whine of it is that maybe he aimed a bit too monumental.

Solomon began the book strong, but a few hund
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Before you read on, be aware that the paragraphs I quote could have potentially triggering content, so please skip those if need be. Your mental—and physical—health are what is most important.
“Every second of being alive hurt me.”

Reading The Noonday Demon was an incredibly enlightening, educational, ingratiating, and above all emotional experience. It is not an easy book to read, and it is definitely not suited for people who aren’t willing to commit to the entirety of the ups and downs it s
Bleak Mouse
Aug 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Morgan Blackledge
Sep 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing book by an amazing writer and all around lovely, soulful human being Mr. Andrew Solomon.

The subject is utterly important, as all of us either have or have had depression, or know someone who has or has been afflicted. It's a serious matter in which lives may hang in the balance, making this unique insiders view absolute required reading.

That being said, I am sooooooo dang glad to be finished with this book. I'm not trying to scare anyone away from the book, but I would feel r
Aug 09, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Joseph D. Walch
Apr 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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! ...more
Oct 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, self-help
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. ...more
Joshua Buhs
Mar 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Deep in the book, Solomon confronts the spiritual ancestor of his own tome, Robert Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy," and his assessment of it is also an assessment of "The Noonday Demon": mixing "a millennium of thought and a steady supply of scattered personal intuitions, [Anatomy] is a subtle, self-contradictory, badly organized, hugely wise volume."

The NoonDay Demon purports to be an atlas, which is a genre not widely written or read anymore--atlases are reference material. But this is a book
Jan 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have depression, and I think this is the reason why I am attracted to books, films, music, etc. that discuss mental illness. But I have (oddly? ironically?) realized that I don't like memoirs that involve mental illness. Stay with me here.

The beauty of fiction is that writers use language to create scenes and invoke images that are emotionally powerful. In The Bell Jar, we don't just read a summary of Esther's institutionalization; we share her anxieties and experience her emotional fracturing
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I have ever read. It manages to be both beautiful and a great source for documentation on research.
Andrew Solomon speaks of depression from a privileged seat - he has lived it, he has fought whit it, it is his constant companion. This intimacy with the subjects makes the book kind, gives it a sweet kind of sadness. Although, sometimes the stories are more sad than sweet, so crude they hit you in the face. This book does not shy away from the stories that are violent and
May 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I took this book on vacation because I knew I would want to be able to read it thoughtfully. I admired another book by Mr. Solomon- Far From the Tree - and I wasn't disappointed with this earlier work about depression. The author writes with great intelligence, empathy and the ability to articulate many angles of complicated problems. He is very candid about his own struggle with depression and sympathetically relates the stories of other people. I wish this could be required reading for everyon ...more
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved Solomon's second book, Far from the Tree. I still think I like that one better, but Solomon is a master of empathy and just the understanding of humans. His stories are vivid and so heart-wrenching. I don't know if this is helpful for those who have struggled with depression, but it really helped me gain a whole lot more compassion and understanding. ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Scientifically valid? 4 39 Apr 08, 2019 07:32AM  
Funny book about depression - not this one; another one! 2 17 Apr 08, 2019 06:37AM  
Depreciation and the Benefits to a Business 1 4 Sep 28, 2017 10:41AM  
Well+ Book Club : * Thoughts on Oct Book - Noonday Demon. An Atlas of Depression 1 6 Sep 26, 2017 07:52AM  

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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

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