Tired of memoirs that only tell you what really happened?
Sick of deeply personal accounts written in the first person? Seeking an exciting, interactive read that puts the “u” back in “aUtobiography”? Then look no further than Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography! In this revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative, actor/personality/carbon-based life-form Neil Patrick Harris lets you, the reader, live his life. You will be born in New Mexico. You will get your big break at an acting camp. You will get into a bizarre confrontation outside a nightclub with actor Scott Caan. Even better, at each critical juncture of your life, you will choose how to proceed. You will decide whether to try out for Doogie Howser, M.D. You will decide whether to spend years struggling with your sexuality. You will decide what kind of caviar you want to eat on board Elton John’s yacht.
Choose correctly and you’ll find fame, fortune, and true love. Choose incorrectly and you’ll find misery, heartbreak, and a hideous death by piranhas. All this, plus magic tricks, cocktail recipes, embarrassing pictures from your time as a child actor, and even a closing song. Yes, if you buy one book this year, congratulations on being above the American average, but make that book Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography!
I remember reading Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, and dog-earing pages when I made decisions, so that I could go back to the last fork in the road if the one I chose didn’t work out for the best. Since I am now opposed to dog-earing pages, I don’t know how I’d have handled reading this autobiography. Lots of bookmarks, maybe?
Fortunately for me, I listened to the audiobook instead, and it was sooooo worth it. For a start, Neil Patrick Harris does the reading, and he’s as a great a voice actor as he is any other kind of actor. Secondly, instead of including transcripts of different moments, the audiobook includes a few actual recordings instead, including of Neil giving a speech on optimism when he’s a young teen, and a chapter with some gorgeous interjections by his husband, David.
The story still jumps around a bit, because instead of choosing to skip ahead or back (which would have been impractical when I was driving), Neil just advises you to “keep listening” or “wait a bit”, or says “we talked about that already”. The made-up parts of the book are clearly fake — he dies in gruesome ways that become eerily familiar at least four or five times — but they are hilarious. Also included are magic tricks, recipes and different celebrities’ anecdotes.
I don’t often laugh or externally emote when I’m reading (or listening to) a book. That’s why books that make me cry are few and far between. So are books that make me actually LOL. But this book had me laughing constantly. It is also touching and sweet and made me naww more than once.
Another thing that was really interesting about the memoir was hearing Neil’s own, gradual discovery of his sexuality. He describes himself as not so much being in the closet as being unaware of his sexuality; he was a rather asexual teen, and then thought he was bisexual for a while. Eventually (some time after his first sexual encounter with a male), he realised he was straight-up gay.
No pun intended.
Seriously, you guys. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography is one of my favourite reads of the year.
Parental advisory: This book has swears, and talk of drinking, drugs and sex, both gay and straight. It’s not full on, but it’s there. In case you’re bothered by such things.
Cassandra Page is an urban fantasy author with a forever-unrequited crush on Neil Patrick Harris. But she’ll soldier on.