Summary and book reviews of The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon

The Noonday Demon

An Atlas of Depression

by Andrew Solomon

The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon X
The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2001, 576 pages
    Apr 2002, 576 pages

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Book Summary

An amazingly rich and absorbing work -- encompassing not only the author's own ordeal but also keen inquiries into the biological, social, and political aspects of depression.

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, and scientific terms. Drawing on his own struggles with the illness and interviews with fellow sufferers, doctors and scientists, policymakers and politicians, drug designers and philosophers, Solomon reveals the subtle complexities and sheer agony of the disease. He confronts the challenge of defining the illness and describes the vast range of available medications, the efficacy of alternative treatments, and the impact the malady has had on various demographic populations around the world and throughout history. He also explores the thorny patch of moral and ethical questions posed by emerging biological explanations for mental illness.

The depth of human experience Solomon chronicles, the range of his intelligence, and his boundless curiosity and compassion will change the reader's view of the world.

Chapter One: Depression

Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair. When it comes, it degrades one's self and ultimately eclipses the capacity to give or receive affection. It is the aloneness within us made manifest, and it destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself. Love, though it is no prophylactic against depression, is what cushions the mind and protects it from itself. Medications and psychotherapy can renew that protection, making it easier to love and be loved, and that is why they work. In good spirits, some love themselves and some love others and some love work and some love God: any of these passions can furnish that vital sense of purpose that is the opposite of depression. Love forsakes us from time to time, and we forsake love. In depression, the meaninglessness of every enterprise and every emotion,...

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Media Reviews

Library Journal
This compassionate work that never simplifies complex matters is essential for all collections.

Kirkus Reviews
A reader's guide to depression, hopelessly bleak yet heartbreakingly real. In this massive tome, Solomon (A Stone Boat) confronts the terrors of depression with a breadth both panoramic and precise.

Author Blurb Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon
Andrew Solomon's new book on the descent of melancholy is, strange as it sounds, charming, lively, intelligent, and, in its diligent fascination with what turns out to be a permanent feature of the human condition, never the least bit depressing.

Author Blurb W. G. Sebald, author of The Emigrants
The Noonday Demon explores the subterranean realms of an illness that is on the point of becoming endemic and that, more than anything else, mirrors the present state of our civilization and its profound discontents. As wide-ranging as it is incisive, this astonishing work is a testimony both to the muted suffering of millions and to the great courage it must have taken the author to set his mind against it.

Author Blurb Martha Manning, Ph.D. Clinical psychologist and author of Undercurrents A Life Beneath the Surface
Solomon is able to examine depression in its considerable darkness, with an unblinking look at its sometimes lethal agonies. His greatest brilliance, however, is in his capacity to consider depression in the light, to recognize that there are elements of the experience that challenge its sufferers to learn, to change, and to salvage joy wherever they may find it.

Author Blurb Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
Andrew Solomon offers us a wrenchingly candid, fascinating, and exhaustive tour of one of the darker chambers of the human heart.

Author Blurb Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove and The Last Picture Show
Through his candor, intellectual elegance, and ultimately his human resilience, Solomon manages to write of traumas both deep and ordinary without leaving the reader traumatized.

Author Blurb Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth and Promiscuities
With unflinching humanity and empathy, Solomon has written a landmark work about the universal experience of chronic grief. The book is so beautifully documented and widely researched that it reinvigorates the dying tradition of the public intellectual. And for so many women who are the more likely gender to experience lasting depression, whose grief is so often trivialized, The Noonday Demon will be a valued sourcebook, even a lifeline.

Author Blurb Kay Redfield Jamison, professor of psychiatry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
The Noonday Demon is an eloquent, harrowing account of melancholy and dread. It informs deeply in every manner -- personal, scientific, historical, and political -- about the roots, experience, and treatment of clinical depression. It is an important book about suffering, but an even more important one about hope.

Author Blurb James Watson, discoverer of DNA structure, Nobel Prize winner, and author of The Double Helix
A brilliant, kaleidoscopic portrayal of the human experience of depression.

Author Blurb William Styron, author of Darkness Visible and Sophie's Choice
An amazingly rich and absorbing work....In its flow of insights and its scope -- encompassing not only the author's own ordeal but also keen inquiries into the biological, social, and political aspects of the illness -- The Noonday Demon has achieved a level of authority that should assure its place among the few indispensable works on depression.

Author Blurb Edmund white, author of A Boy's Own Story and Flâneur
The Noonday Demon is the ideal and definitive book on depression. There is nothing falsely consoling about this account, which is the opposite of a bromide, unless to be accompanied by so much intelligence and understanding is a consolation in itself.

Author Blurb Harold Bloom, author of How to Read and Why and Shakespeare The Invention of the Human
The Noonday Demon is immensely readable and should be universally useful. It is indeed an atlas of depression, sensitively chronicling the illness's characteristics, social and cultural history, modes of treatment, and prospects. What makes it remarkable is a highly individual blend of the personal and the dispassionate, the work of a benign intelligence.

Author Blurb Louise Erdrich, author of Love Medicine and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
Compulsively readable, harrowing, and helpful, The Noonday Demon is an act of redemption in an epidemic of sorrow.

Reader Reviews

Raymond Noas

Kudos ... to Andrew Solomon! It takes courage and then, wisdom to capture in the written form ... the different masks of depression. I found The Noonday Demon to be comprised of valuable insights and filled with tangible proof ... that a father's ...   Read More

royal j. cumings

The Noonday Demon has helped me to corner some of my 'demons' and has helped me to better explain myself to psychiatrists, a problem I have had for years. The book is never pouty and never preachy. The Noonday Demon is so articulate on so many ...   Read More

Melissa Padgett

I've suffered with depression most of my 49 years, and read many books on the subject. All pale in comparison to Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon. His deeply personal experiences with depression qualify him to speak empathetically, while his ...   Read More


Even if you don't have the time or inclination to buy and read all 500+ pages of The Noonday Demon : An Atlas of Depression - I strongly recommend you take the time to read the first chapter at (click on the 'Excerpt' link just above)....   Read More

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