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Depression Insights and Personal Battles in One Encyclopedic Book

Book of the Month: July 2015

As many as one in three patients with a chronic disease are estimated to experience symptoms of depression. Our July book digs deep into the disorder.Being diagnosed with a chronic disease and learning to cope with the condition represent major changes that can profoundly affect a patient’s mood, outlook, and behavior. Some illnesses and/or associated treatments cause fatigue, pain, or other new discomforts; for some patients, new routines of care and maintenance can necessitate lifestyle adjustments. It’s common for these alterations to come hand in hand with emotions such as sadness, anger, or fear. Yet patients and caregivers may not be aware that if these feelings continue and begin to interfere with day-to-day life, depression may be the culprit.

As many as one in three patients with a chronic disease are estimated to experience symptoms of depression. However, for many of these individuals, depression disorders may not be recognized and can go untreated. For readers wanting to learn more about depression and its effects and treatments, July’s book selection is an exhaustive reference on many facets of the disease.

Described as an ‘atlas’ of depression, The Noonday Demon represents more than five years of effort for author Andrew Solomon. A New York Times bestseller, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and 2001 National Book Award winner for Nonfiction, the book has just been re-released in paperback, with a new chapter added. In thirteen sections spanning hundreds of densely packed pages, Solomon probes historical, societal, legal, medical, artistic, and personal aspects of depression — including first-person accounts of his own and others’ experiences.

Solomon’s brief foreword, ‘A Note on Method,’ is an illuminating key to what follows. It describes a work of thorough research and citation, made more readable by containing all reference information at the end of the book — in all, there are about 150 pages of notes, unedited quotations, and a comprehensive index. Although the prose is straightforward and engaging, not all readers will take a cover-to-cover approach. Those who want specific information can always skip to a certain section (such as ‘Treatments’ or ‘Addiction’), or begin at the end, searching the index for even more precise topics.

Whether citing scientifically sound research or encapsulating a personal breakdown in emotive detail, Solomon’s blend of disciplines and perspectives offers the reader a thorough and textured survey of a common, but often stigmatized, mental illness. For readers seeking to better understand depressive disorders, this book conveys a full landscape by weaving together academic knowledge and empathetic memoir.

The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
Andrew Solomon
704 pages, $20.00