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Monkey Mind

Monkey Mind

A Memoir of Anxiety

  • reading group guide
  • bestseller
  • freshman reading
Daniel Smith’s Monkey Mind is the stunning articulation of what it is like to live with anxiety. As he travels through anxiety’s demonic layers, Smith defangs the disorder with great humor and evocatively expresses its self-destructive absurdities and painful internal coherence. Aaron Beck, the most influential doctor in modern psychotherapy, says that “Monkey Mind does for anxiety what William Styron’s Darkness Visible did for depression.” Neurologist and bestselling writer Oliver Sacks says, “I read Monkey Mind with admiration for its bravery and clarity….I broke out into explosive laughter again and again.” Here, finally, comes relief and recognition to all those who want someone to put what they feel, or what their loved ones feel, into words.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439177303 | 
  • July 2012
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Read an Excerpt

Monkey Mind 1. genesis
The story begins with two women, naked, in a living room in upstate New York.

In the living room, the blinds have been drawn. The coffee table, which is stained and littered with ashtrays, empty bottles, and a tall blue bong, has been pushed against the far wall. The couch has been unfurled. It is a cheap couch, with no springs or gears or wooden endoskeleton; its cushions unfold flat onto the floor with a flat slapping sound: thwack. Also on the floor are several clear plastic bags containing dental dams,... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Monkey Mind includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Daniel Smith. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Monkey Mind is a memoir of one man’s life of anxiety and his quest to both understand and overcome it. Anxiety once paralyzed Daniel Smith, causing him to chew his cuticles until they bled. It has dogged his days, threatened his sanity, and ruined his relationships. In Monkey Mind, Smith articulates what it is like to live with anxiety, demystifying the disease with humor and evocatively expressing its self-destructive absurdities. With honesty and wit, Smith shares his own hilarious and heart-wrenching story of anxiety and how he was finally able to tame the affliction.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Smith begins Monkey Mind with two epigraphs, one from The Woman in White that reads, in part, “We all say it’s on the nerves, and we none of us know what we mean when we say it,” and one from Nabokov’s “Signs and Symbols” that reads, “Everything is a cipher and of everything he is the theme.” Discuss both of these epigraph see more

About the Author

Daniel Smith
Photograph by Tyler Maroney

Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith is the author of Muses, Madmen, and Prophets and a contributor to The Atlantic, New York magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and Slate. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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