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Publisher's Summary

National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2001

With uncommon humanity, candor, wit, and erudition, National Book Award winner Andrew Solomon takes the listener on a journey of incomparable range and resonance into the most pervasive of family secrets.

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 listener's view of the world.

©2002 Andrew Solomon (P)2012 Simon and Schuster Audio

Critic Reviews

"All encompassing, brave, and deeply humane.... It is open-minded, critically informed, and poetic at the same time, and despite the nature of its subject it is written with far too much élan and elegance ever to become depressing itself." ( The New York Times)
"Both heartrending and fascinating.... the book has a scope and passionate intelligence that give it intrigue as well as heft." ( Boston Globe)
"The book for a generation.... Solomon interweaves a personal narrative with scientific, philosophical, historical, political, and cultural insights.... The result is an elegantly written, meticulously researched book that is empathetic and enlightening, scholarly and useful.... Solomon apologizes that 'no book can span the reach of human suffering.' This one comes close." ( TIme)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Cristina
  • Princeton, NJ, United States
  • 01-04-14

Moments of awesome but not clear message

This is a great book if you want to hang out with depression in its many forms. It's like a fleamarket for depression-related thoughts, scenes, and events. There are moments of perfection - stories of assisted suicide, of people who attempt to get infected with HIV, insides of mental hospitals, individuals with moving life stories and many more.

If this book had been written as a series of focused short stories, like 'The man who mistook his wife for a hat' or 'phantoms in the brain', it would have worked perfectly.

As it is, the book seems long, at times a little scattered, and one sometimes can feel that they are reading a memoir of the author rather than a book about depression itself. It lacks a clear message: based mostly on personal stories with little synthesis, it is reminiscent of many other books about scientific topics that are written by non-experts with a journalistic bent - while fun, you may not really learn anything new.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Thorough and personal

Noonday Demon is Andrew Solomon's amazing memoir / history of depression - it's a must-read for anyone who wants to delve deeply into the causes and effects of depression. Solomon begins with his own journey through several severe depressive episodes. For a broader personal understanding of depression, he intermittently includes stories of "depressives" that he's interviewed. In his research for this book, Solomon explored many standard therapies for depression (i.e. medicine, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, etc.); but he also explored some very atypical therapies such as an African ritual in which he lay naked and covered in goat blood while people danced around him with a dead chicken. (He actually found it very cathartic.)

He followed his personal journey with epidemiology, biological causes, and historical development of depression.

I found this book fascinating. Solomon did a great job of inserting little vignettes of his own story or stories of people he interviewed into his more intellectual portions of the book, so that the material never became dry despite its length. Solomon came up with so many interesting points that I was always interested in what he would say next. His own story was touching. His facts seemed very well-researched. In short, it was simply an amazing book.

The narration was quite good, no complaints there!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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If you want to get depressed....

Would you try another book from Andrew Solomon and/or Barrett Whitener?

If you haven't suffered from catastrophic depression and want a guide-book, this is the book for you. The author has researched his topic well, but his preoccupation with his own story makes it difficult to distinguish the difference among autobiography, scholastic statistics, and anecdote. All three are in fact pretty grim.

Depression is serious, and it deserves serious attention. But the fact that the author leaves open the question of his own suicidal risk while graphically describing his mother's assisted suicide and citing statistics on the risks is not helpful to the reader.

I've read a number of the works the author cites. Kay Jamison has written graphic memoirs on her own depression, suicidal feelings, and the multitude of difficult treatments she underwent before she was stabilized on the correct regimen. She's also written a body of literature--for both clinical practitioners and those struggling with the disease--exploring the realities of mood disorders, suicidal risks and statistics that should be considered in treating depression. She also explores the creative aspects of ongoing mood swings.

Solomon tries to convey a message, but the reader is left to discern what it is. It may have been therapeutic to write. Not so therapeutic to read.

What three words best describe Barrett Whitener’s voice?

Whiney
Resigned
Sing-song

Did The Noonday Demon inspire you to do anything?

Yes. To avoid recommending this work to my clients.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Brilliant

What did you love best about The Noonday Demon?

I loved how the story was a mix between scientific explanation and personal accounts, both from Solomon's life and the lives of other he interviewed for this book.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I Andrew Solomon himself was definitely my favorite character. He writes so beautifully, and it's like he allowed us to be a fly on the wall in his own struggle.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I definitely wanted to, but the book is far too long for that!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kelsey
  • Cranberry, PA, United States
  • 01-14-13

LOVE this book

What made the experience of listening to The Noonday Demon the most enjoyable?

The perspective is very interesting - I like that he discusses his own experiences but then also provides the experiences of others. Also, including objective information helps maintain an unbiased view.

Who was your favorite character and why?

n/a

What does Barrett Whitener bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He reminds me of the author so I am able to picture him in the scenes/experiences in the book more easily.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

n/a

Any additional comments?

n/a

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Understanding as Tonic?

When I first heard of this book, the reviewer thought it would be a downer for someone suffering from depression. I'm glad I didn't listen. The light of understanding always dispels haunting shadows and allows us to separate what is from what is uncertain. The journalistic approach along with a bit of more formal scholarship makes the text moving and informing.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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disappointment

What would have made The Noonday Demon better?

This guy is seriously solipsistic and so, so boring. As a long-time sufferer of depression myself, I found he lacked empathy or insight into anyone not like him. His comments about feminist theory and depression were dismissive and judgmental while when covering similar themes relating to the LGBTQ community and depression, he was overwhelmingly compassionate and accepting. In addition the narrator sounded like an automaton. Couldn't even finish it.

Would you ever listen to anything by Andrew Solomon again?

NO

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Barrett Whitener?

Someone who doesn't sound like a robot. The woman who narrates "The Diamond Age" Jennifer Wiltsie, would have been wonderful

What character would you cut from The Noonday Demon?

Andrew Soloman

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Important Material, a bit repetitive

The storytelling is very sincere and the research is invaluable. However, the presentation could be more concise. Reading was good.

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    5 out of 5 stars

Great content marred by narration

Wonderful, comprehensive read but the narrator should have learned how to pronounce the names of psychiatric meds and other key words correctly before taking this book on. Mispronounced Depakote, Nardil and other meds multiple times which is grating to listen to as well as other names like Kraepelin and, astonishingly the word Haitian (pronounced Ha-yee-tian). Where were the editors or the author in this? I’m a psychiatrist so listened to this book from a different vantage point but appreciated the wonderful review and synthesis of data and especially the personal stories which conveyed the enormous suffering and toll depression takes.

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life changing

perhaps the most important work on depression ever. should be required reading for anyone with a family member who is having or has had a breakdown.