‘It has taken me several years of exploration, but I am at a place now where I see autism as neither an affliction nor a superpower. It’s just the blueprint for who I am. There is no cure, but that’s absolutely fine by me. To cure me of my autism would be to cure me of myself.‘ ~ Sara Gibbs
Drama Queen ~ One Autistic Woman and a Life of Unhelpful Labels by Sara Gibbs
Comedic writer and podcaster Sara Gibbs has been called many things in her life but it wasn’t until she turned 30 did a word finally fit – autistic. Since she was a small child Sara has always felt a little different from others around her. Whether it’s how she talked, what she loved (and how much), how she processed the world or how she understood things, her experiences were always a little off-kilter to everyone else around her and she just couldn’t understand why, that was until, she received her autism diagnosis.
Sara writes with humour, compassion and whole honesty about her experiences growing up undiagnosed in a sometimes eccentric household through to her adolescent years of teenagehood and up to her adult life at university and in the working world. Each chapter follows a label that she’s been called sometime in her life – chatterbox, weirdo, crybaby, inappropriate, show-off and drama queen to name a few. Within these chapters she shares her experiences and interactions with the world which consists of some hilarious moments and some real tough and touching ones too. With each passing chapter furthering the readers awareness of how autism can present itself differently, her book also shows how easy it is for people to go undiagnosed and how frequently others misunderstand and misread autistic people. She also brings awareness to some wellbeing and safety issues that, although can happen to anyone, can be easy to find yourself in as an autistic individual, particularly a female. I’m very grateful that she included this element in her book as it’s very important to be aware of. But the biggest thing I loved about her book was that she made me feel less alone. Drama Queen was the first book I read post-diagnosis and my copy is now so well thumbed and has almost doubled in width due to the multiple corners I’ve bent (sacrilege I know!) to highlight parts that I related to and wanted to reference with ease, and I think there are so many people out there that her book will do the same for.
Her writing is anecdotal, informative and very relatable. She shines a light on the diversity of autism and is an important voice in advocating for autistic voices to be heard. A truly funny and important book with a lot of heart that has the power to change minds, myth-bust assumptions and encourage a better understanding of the diversity of autism itself. An absolute powerhouse of a book!
[Sara also has a great podcast ‘Aut-Hour‘ where she talks to a different autistic author each episode from all walks of life (some mentioned in this blog). Click here for the link to the podcast]
The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
I was first aware of this book many moons ago when I started out as a bookseller, overhearing my manager at the time recommend it to a customer. It took me a few years to pick it up and read, but it has stayed with me ever since. What the author Naoki has achieved from writing his book is nothing less than remarkable (and I mean that in no patronising way). As a non-speaking autistic individual, at the age of 13 he wrote this book, communicating his experiences that are often misunderstood and misread by the majority of the outside world. Having learnt how to communicate with the help of his mother through a system akin to an alphabet grid, he decided to answer questions that many people have about autism for people who experience it firsthand. From questions such as ‘Why do you echo questions back at the asker?’ to ‘Why do you flap your fingers and hands in front of your face?’ Naoki opens up the readers eyes to his unique experience of living. His book bursts myths, creates connection and is so, so incredibly important. I think many of us, myself included, can be unconsciously ableist and this book just made me realise this shameful reality. We often bypass recognising that, despite differences from one another whether it be our background, ethnicity, sexuality, gender or whether we have or haven’t got disabilities, we all have a lot more in common with each other than we give credit to. Naoki helps break down barriers and reminds us that human connection is fundamental to us all. His book not only brings amazing awareness about autism to the forefront, but he also makes you look at the world in a new way – one with more compassion, acceptance, clarity, wonder and understanding.
In his own words which are far more sophisticated, intelligent and well crafted than my own Naoki writes ‘The alphabet grid makes it possible to form my words by simply pointing to their letters, instead of having to write them out one by one. This also lets me anchor my words, words that would otherwise flutter off as soon as I tried to speak them. Often, while I was learning this method, I’d feel utterly beaten. But finally, I arrived at the point where I could indicate the letters by myself. What kept me hammering away at it was the thought that to live my life as a human being, nothing is more important than being able to express myself. So for me, the alphabet grid isn’t just about putting together sentences: it’s about getting across to other people what I want and need them to understand.’
Naoki’s book is amazing. He writes of his experiences of being a non-speaking autistic individual with beautiful clarity and charisma. He has written a second book as a young man called Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8 which I have yet to read, but is patiently sitting on my bookshelf ready for me to pick up and if it’s just a smidgen of the book that his first one is, then it’s going to be a great read for sure!
[His first book has also been the inspiration for a documentary which is titled the same name. It is wonderful. To read more about it click here where it’ll take you to my blog about awesome autistic film and tv shows!]
Autism ~ How to Raise a Happy Autistic Child by Jessie Hewitson
Journalist Jessie Hewitson has created a real treasure trove of knowledge in her book on how to best support your autistic child from her first-hand experience of raising her eldest son as well as by talking to many people within the professional autism field and most wonderfully, from autistic people themselves. Her book varies on topics from really early days to dealing with sensory overloads and meltdowns; creating a autism-friendly home to relationships with siblings; mental health, the diagnosis process, experiences with nursery and schools; support, playdates, diversity within the autism community and much more.
Her book is so nicely formatted and her research is clearly of very high standard. The chapters aren’t overwhelming but filled with all important information. I love the fact that she’s not written this as if she’s a guru of parenting for autistic children, but instead from a humble outlook of shared experience as a parent of an autistic child, as well as someone who also looks to the autistic community to help better understand what autistic experiences can feel like, creating a book not of assumptions but of a realistic look at autism as a whole.
Although I’m not a parent myself, I found the read a fascinating one and many a time I was head-nodding in agreement to lots of things that I can now recognise in myself from my childhood. I think if I could recommend parents and those in the educational sector just a handful of books, this would definitely be one of them. A positive, honest and understanding look at autism and how we can help support autistic children instead of trying to ‘fix’ them. All the important parts without having to trawl through dozens of hefty books. A real gem!
Women and Girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder ~ Understanding Life Experiences from Early Childhood to Old Age by Sarah Hendrickx
On the lead up to my autism assessments I stumbled upon this book and I’m so glad that I did because reading it was a real turning point for me. Whilst awaiting my assessment I had many doubts that maybe I was just being over-dramatic and a bit of a fraud putting myself forward for a diagnostic assessment, when maybe it would turn out that I wasn’t autistic at all, just prone to exaggerating my challenges, but Sarah Hendrickx’s book gave me both comfort as well as a little bit of confidence in my decision to pursue a diagnosis. There are so many pages I’ve marked or passages I’ve underlined where there’s something that I can relate to and now makes sense.
Her book is a little more akin to deeper research I suppose in comparison to memoirs and some other autism related books, but that being said it’s extremely accessible and full of insight, information and experiences from women and girls who she’s interviewed for this book, as well as her own experiences (the author herself is a late-diagnosed autistic woman, who works in the field of supporting autistic individuals). She quite wonderfully delves into most areas of life starting from early years all the way through to old age which I really appreciate as I don’t think I’ve read another book that deals with older generations of autistic people – so often support and autism research sadly stops after childhood, although thankfully this is starting to change.
She really explains the less-spoken about and less-understood areas of autism and how it generally affects females in ways that have, for years, been totally missed or misunderstood. I think her book has the power to change so many peoples lives and improve the awareness of autism and it’s diversity, as well as support the conversation around autism in general so that it’s better understood in all areas of life. An absolutely amazing!
[Sarah Hendrickx has worked with the autistic community for years and you can see one of her talks she’s done by clicking here. It’s really enlightening and well worth the watch. Sarah Hendrickx has also written a book called ‘The Adolescent and Adult Neuro-diversity Handbook: Asperger Syndrome, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Related Conditions‘ which is a really good overview of the conditions mentioned and advice about navigating life as a neurodiverse person.]
You are Only Just Beginning by Morgan Harper Nichols
Artist, poet and musician Morgan Harper Nichols was diagnosed with autism and ADHA at the age of 31 after many years of misdiagnosis. In her latest book You are Only Just Beginning she explores themes of beginning by looking to the natural world, a place that has helped her make sense of the complexities of life for years. Her poetry is hopeful and mindful and explores themes universal to us all; her unique perspective of life weaving throughout every line written and every stroke of her paintbrush. Set against her mesmerising and calming artwork her lyrical look is full of wonder, curiosity, endurance and kindness, creating a very special book of encouragement and acceptance, that is welcome to everyone but with her communities particularly in mind – people of colour, women and autistic individuals. This courageous love-letter to living life differently and noticing the small things in each day is a book I will treasure for a very long time.
[For more of Morgan’s beautiful art and poetry, you can visit her website here, her Instagram page by here and her wonderful podcast here. Morgan’s book is also available as an audiobook, read by the author herself. You can also hear her talk about her book in an episode of ‘The Late Diagnosed Club’ which is a British podcast hosted by Psychotherapist and fellow autistic Catherine Asta via this link]
Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham
Naturalist, scientist and presenter Chris Packham has bought to life his memoir with immersive and evocative writing, beautifully capturing the memory of his childhood and adolescence. He writes of a boy full of utter wonder at the living world around him, who enthralled in natural science, gobbled up encyclopaedias of his favourite animals and dinosaurs, wandered the suburbs of his home town with a mixture of isolation in the town and complete belonging in the rural landscape. His memoir time-travels from tales of his young life in the 1960’s and 70’s to the early 2000’s after he hit rock bottom and attempted to end his life. He tells his story in such a unique way, focusing on first-person experiences as well as seeing himself, almost as a character, alongside other people that have played a part in his life (often no more than a stranger to him, but nonetheless who played vital roles in his life), both for the better and the worse.
I’m not a massive reader of memoirs, but I have to say I absolutely loved this truly lyrical account of his life. Not only do I love the nature-writing element to his book but I also enjoyed his honesty, sharp detailed accounts and subtly seeing his autistic traits that went for so long undiagnosed. Although completely unique to himself, his tale is one that’s sadly not that rare when it comes to people with ASD (especially when living undiagnosed), so it’s so important to have people like himself bring awareness to autism, how it effects everyone differently and the impact it can have on a life.
Since receiving his autism diagnosis in his 40’s, Chris has gone on to do two documentaries that I must say are both brilliant. To hear more about his 2017 documentary Aspergers & Me and his recent two-part BBC documentary Inside Our Autistic Minds click here.
Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women by Dr Sarah Bargiela & Sophie Standing
I read this book in 2019, when I was first starting to seriously consider that I may possibly be autistic. I found it in a bookshop that I was working in at the time and just knew I had to read it. Its contents are just as individual as the format of the book itself ~ it’s a slim, hardback book, fully illustrated and written by a mixture of infograms, illustrations and tradition writing. Without overloading the reader with swamps of dialogue, Camouflage offers simple, well presented information that is sure to enlighten anyone who picks it up. The design and illustrations are so interactive that it’s hard not to want to read it several times over. It gives you a brief history of autism, traits of how it often appears in women and includes examples from several autistic women’s lives. It’s a great starting point for someone wanting to know more about autism and how it can often (but not always) appear in women. I’ve not come across this book again in a bookshop, nor have I seen it when researching and I’m not quite sure why. It’s a great book and the perfect companion to someone starting to learn about autism.
Explaining Humans by Dr Camilla Pang
Scientist Dr Camilla Pang sees the world in a pretty unique way. She is an autistic individual who also has ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and GAD (general anxiety disorder) which leads her to interact and process the world around her in a way many will never experience. Having grown up always feeling as though she had crash-landed on earth without a manual, she decided to write one herself, forming the wonderful book that is Explaining Humans.
As a young child she discovered what would turn out to be a lifelong love for science. Science gave her the tools to better understand the world around her, was something she could rely on and would be a source of never-ending wonderment and awe with its continuous theories and discoveries. She has put all her passion for science into making her awesome guide to explaining life, and us humans. Her book is hard to categorise – it’s technically pop-science but it’s also a as self-development book as well as a book about learning and understanding neurodiversity itself. She takes areas of life that are often baffling or scary for most (often doubly so for the neurodiverse population) such as How to Connect with Others and How to Feel the Fear and uses laws and theories of science to help better understand these areas of life, skilfully communicating not only science in an accessible manner but also creating a toolkit to better navigate life and be more comfortable and confident in yourself.
Explaining Humans is for everyone no matter where they are in life and what their neurotype is. Fascinating, compassionate and extremely helpful, I absolutely love this book.
[Camilla Pang has also written a young persons version of her book called ‘Perfectly Weird, Perfectly You’ which you can read about here on my autism book recommendations for children and teenagers]
In Late Bloomer Australian screen-writer Clem Bastow writes about their experiences of growing up undiagnosed through the lens of their late diagnosis at the age of 36. Their book is full of pop-culture references, humour and honesty. From their early years of growing up in a slightly eccentric but loving household, they go on to talk about areas of their life such as school and the education system, the confusion of teenage years and the beginnings of adulthood alongside areas of life such as relationships, friendship, special interests, sensory overloads, sexuality and echolalia to name a few. Clem allows the reader to help make sense of, and ponder, their own autistic experiences via the anecdotal experiences they include in their book.
The book is so well written and with seeming ease that it feels as though you’re sitting down with a friend and the conversation just keeps flowing. There was many a moment throughout the book where I felt I could see myself. I think part of the beauty of this book (besides the awesome movie references sprinkled throughout and the gorgeous glittery rainbow cover!) is that as Clem looks back on their life through the knowledge of their late diagnosis, much of their exploration into the past helps the reader understand their own experiences too. I think so many other undiagnosed people on the spectrum (particularly women and gender-diverse) are likely see themselves reflected in Clem’s writings. So often women and gender-diverse individuals will go undiagnosed late into adulthood and sometimes sadly never even reach a correct diagnosis of autism, but having people like Clem write about their own experiences in such an accessible way, increases awareness and hopefully changes the way society sees autism meaning more and more undiagnosed people will finally start to recognise their autistic traits, leading them to clarity in discovering their neurodiversity.
Clem also includes an epilogue called #actuallyautistic where they talk to other people with ASD about their own experiences as, as the saying goes ‘if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person’. Autism effects everyone differently so I love that they included a chapter with other peoples experiences (including trans people which is bloomin’ awesome) from all walks of life with their own individual experiences of being autistic, to show how diverse we all are despite us having the commonality of ASD. Their book breaks down stereotypes and creates a safe space for readers to learn about this neurological disability. Clem is an important voice in autism advocacy and I have no doubt that their book will continue to help countless people for a very long time indeed!
[You can find more about Clem Bastow via website here and her Instagram page here]
Different, Not Less by Chloe Hayden
I love this book! Written by Australian autistic actor who’s best known for her role as Quinni on Netflix’s Heartbreak High, Chloe Hayden’s book Different Not Less is a guide for both autistic individuals and those who support them. It’s a book designed to help navigate many of life’s ups and downs; from schooling, friendships, dealing with sensory overloads, meltdowns, shutdowns, diagnosis and more. All of her advice is interspursed with anecdotes from her own experiences which provides a great backdrop to the topic she’s explaining. She’s a big Disney fan so references are happily scattered throughout, of which I love, and her humour and unapologetic advocacy for being your authentic autistic self is just wonderful. Clear and easy to read, she explores very important topics with care, compassion and courage and includes trigger warnings for the more difficult themes covered such as sexual abuse, suicide and mental health.
Her book is like a little ray of sunshine on a gloomy day and makes you feel as though everything will be all ok. She doesn’t deny the hardships of being autistic but she also shares the joys and celebrates the uniqueness of being different. Her optimism and compassion is infection and shines through on every page of the book. Different, not Less is one treasure of a book and the world is a better place for having it in it!
[You can find Chloe on Instagram by clicking here and visit her YouTube channel here]
Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic: A Comedians Guide to Life on the Spectrum by Michael McCreary
Canadian comedian Michael McCreary takes us on a journey of living life on the spectrum. As the middle child in a trio of brothers (including his younger brother Matthew who’s also autistic) Michael charts his experiences with living life the ASD way. From early childhood through to adulthood, he tells his story with obvious wit and humour with anecdotes aplenty.
His quirky handbook covers a lot of the main topics that are associated with the experience autism such as understanding social queues, the reality of hypo or hyper sensitivities and the difficulties that come when you take life with a heapful of literalism. With a sense of ease in his storytelling, he relays many anecdotes and stories making his book very accessible, entertaining and relatable. I love that he speaks about his younger brother Matthew, whose autism presented differently to his own, giving the reader insight into the diversity of the autism spectrum. His care, respect and advocacy for individuals with disabilities is infectious and pretty damn awesome. He shows us that if we can take the time to really understand one another that (without wanting to sound cheesy and cliche) the world is a much better and happier place for it, and that standing up for what’s right is always the best option (even if it takes a few attempts to get it right). I also love his ability to cut down stereotypes and his rather hilarious and ingenious description of his own personal Autism Nutrition Facts which you can see by clicking here.
I listened to the audiobook which made for a great companion on drives or whilst moseying around the house with – but warning, you’re likely to get a few odd looks if you’re in company as you’ll inevitably laugh-out-loud…a lot. Short and snappy, this is a perfectly formed memoir and makes for a great intro into understand autism better.
The Autism Friendly Cookbook by Lydia Wilkins
Now I know it might sound a bit random having a cookbook purely aimed at autistic people but truly, this is such a great book for many neurodiverse people to have in their kitchen. Filled with all the basics of what you need to know, this recipe book covers so much including the level of skill needed for each recipe as well as the energy level required, what tools/appliances you’ll need for each recipe, when each meal is particularly good to make e.g. when you’ve got a chilled night in with friends/family or just need something super quick and faff-free for those real low-energy days. The recipes also take into account opportunities for swapping ingredients due to dietary requirements and sensory intolerances. Each recipe has clear instructions and the book has a guide at the beginning for measurements, a glossary for explaining cooking jargon and some tips to help with sensory issues in the kitchen.
It may sound a lot of information in one book but this cookbook is brilliant. It’s all clearly written and full to the brim with recipes from the author herself and other people within the autistic community. I’ll be using this book for many years to come for sure. Full of handy and yummy recipes, it’s a book I didn’t know I needed until I saw it!
[Lydia Wilkins is an autistic freelance journalist and speaker. You can find more about her via her website here.]
My Brain is Different ~ Stories of ADHD and Other Developmental Disorders by Monzusu
I’m always looking out for different genres of books that cover the topic of ASD and other neurodiverse conditions so I was thrilled when I saw this come into the bookshop. The author and illustrator Monzusu discovered she had ADHD after her children’s neurodiversity became apparent at a young age. Having wished there was more representation of neurodevelopment disorders when she was discovering her family’s neurodiversity, she decided to create her own book celebrating just that.
Her book tells the true stories of nine different people and how they discovered their neurological differences such as ADHD, ASD and other learning disabilities. At the beginning of each story she includes a character debrief including their name, age, diagnosis, any comorbidity’s they have and any medication that person takes. She also includes an introduction with explanations of terminology used and an honorific guide. Her book is very accessible and informative and I just love that there’s a book out there about neurodiversity in the format of manga. So often books about autism can seem too heavy and overwhelming even before you open the first page, but here is a book that explains multiple experiences of being neurodiverse at different stages in life all through the art form of manga. Many young adults and teenagers enjoy reading manga so this is a brilliant book if you have a reluctant reader but who wants to learn more about neurological differences. My Brain is Different is a great book to add to anyone’s bookshelf!
Invisible Differences by Julie Dachez and Mademoiselle Caroline
Translated from its original text in French, Invisible Differences tells the story of twenty-something Marguerite who is based on the author Julie Dachez herself. The book shows that from the outside perspective, Marguerite seems like a pretty together person – she’s a young woman with a full-time office job, has a boyfriend and a flat of her own that she shares with her dog and cat – nothing out of the ordinary here. However what people don’t always see is the struggles and the effort she puts into every day to keep this appearance up. Marguerite has difficulty socialising with work colleagues and neighbours; deals with sensory overloads due to lights, smells and sounds on a daily basis; doesn’t understand the confusing dynamics of fleeting interactions and small talk and struggles with changes in her routine. It not until an unexpected turning point that Marguerite discovers something called Asperger’s syndrome and that’s when things start to make sense.
I really felt a commonality with the protagonist in this book, being an undiagnosed adult and the feeling of being too ‘normal’ to be different and too different to be ‘normal’, leaving you trapped in this confusing state of how you feel, what you project to the world and how others see you, which often leaves you feeling a bit of a fraud, low and exhausted. I loved the simplicity of the storytelling; it manages to deal with the complexities of an autistic experience yet without overwhelming the reader with too much information and visual clutter. It was also really interesting to see how an autism diagnosis is perceived and sort out in a different country to my own. At the end of the book there is a few pages on different topics such as a short history of autism alongside how autism can affect people including examples, as well as some helpful resources. I loved the books friendliness and the feeling it gave me of really knowing the characters and its scenery as if I were there in France with them. The honesty that it portrayed with the combination of great storytelling by Julie Dachez and the engaging and characteristic illustrations by Mademoiselle Caroline, makes this a graphic novel that I’ll read time and time again. It’s a book that I hope will reach many autistic folk and will continue to happily spread awareness and understanding about autism. Simply awesome.
[If you enjoy this book or would like to hear more from the author herself, you can find a great Ted Talk that she did by clicking here and you can find her YouTube channel here]
Quiet Girl in a Noisy World ~ An Introvert’s Story by Debbie Tung
This graphic novel based on the authors own experiences isn’t actually about autism but it is a book that I think many autistic folk might identify with. Quiet Girl in a Noisy World is a graphic memoir of the authors life as an introvert navigating adulthood, relationships and the overwhelming situations that can come with socialising. She deals with areas that I feel can coincide with many autistic experiences such as low social batteries, difficulties in socialising and the need for alone time. She also has a wonderful imagination and love for literature which again, some autistic people may relate to as fictional worlds can often be a special interest.
Her storytelling I find is perfectly balanced with simplicity and effective communication. I love the fact that her book isn’t told in colours but in a grey colour palette which is nice and relaxing on the eyes, and visually, her illustrations are uncluttered yet charming (I can sometimes find too much details in graphic novels a little hard to take in so her style makes for a nice relaxing read). Her books are whimsical, often funny, easy to read and great for all ages.
[Debbie Tung has three other books which are equally lovely – ‘Book Love’, ‘Happily Ever After & Everything In Between’ and her latest book ‘Everything is Ok’ where she eloquently writes of her own experiences with anxiety and depression. Another brilliant read].
The Cassandra Complex by Holly Smale (Cassandra in Reverse in the USA)
Unknowingly autistic, 31-year-old Cassandra has muddled, struggled and grappled through life. Then one day she has the mother of all days by getting dumped and fired within a matter of hours and to top it all off her daily trip to her local cafe is ruined by the news of no banana muffins. After experiencing a public meltdown Cassandra finds herself in a loop, reliving this hell of a day until she realises she can time-travel within the restraints of four months, from a day which unknowingly changed everything. With unlimited times to re-do her mistakes and perfect her interactions with those around her, she endeavours to work out this confusing world full of unwritten and often baffling social queues, constantly overstimulating sensory inputs and the puzzling experience of ever-changing emotions to get her job and boyfriend back. Running from the past and scared of the unknown future, Cassie is forced to deal with what’s in front of her again and again. But with time on her side, surely she can skip the scary bits and map out a future just as she wishes? Yet with the age-old question of the butterfly effect hovering over her, can her endeavours of perfecting the art of fitting in and masking who she truly is change her life for the better or worse?
Filled with subtle wit and humour, a swirl of greek mythology (one of Cassie’s special interests) and raw honesty and compassion sewn throughout every page, The Cassandra Complex for me, is a wonder of a book. At one moment it made me laugh out loud and the next feel deeply for Cassandra and the daily struggles she goes through, of which countless other undiagnosed (and diagnosed) individuals deal with every day. Her story brings to light many important areas of life that many people on the spectrum can experience, from alexithymia meaning difficulties recognising your own and other peoples emotions (Cassie instead relates feelings to colours) to the constant miscalculations of social interactions; the need for routine and the disastrous effects that can occur when seemingly small changes ripple throughout the day. The realities of meltdowns as an adult and the silent yet certain vail of a shutdown that encompasses everything in sight and the hard enigma of understanding the mechanisms of relationships .
Although author Holly Smale is hasten to acknowledge that Cassandra’s story doesn’t represent everyones experiences of ASD as every neurodivergent person is individual, I think there’ll be many autistic readers finding solace in Cassie’s story. Despite my traits differing at times to those of Cassie’s, I certainly could recognise some experiences of hers that were akin to my own. Having a mainstream contemporary book with an autistic protagonist was awesome to read. I think her story will also be a great way for neurotypical readers to get a better grasp of understanding autism and how living life on the spectrum can be and perhaps for those undiagnosed readers, to see some of their traits reflected in Cassandra, hopefully leading them to a better understanding of themselves too .
In the end (which Cassie would probably say is a bit of an arbitrary statement and which may get her kicked out of a book club one day*) this novel of self-discovery and time-travel is something the world has needed for a long time. Holly Smale reflects with honesty and upmost storytelling skill the importance of being true to oneself and the power that comes from taking the time to understand yourself and others better. Cassie is certainly a character I’ll keep with me for a very long time indeed. I can’t recommend this book enough!
[*book pun/reference will make sense after reading the book :)]
Act Your Age Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
This rom-com of a book is so much fun. In the last book in the Brown Sisters trilogy by Talia Hibbert, we get to delve into the life of the youngest Brown sister, Eve. Eve is a little bit chaotic, less accomplished in the career world compared to her siblings, is prone to immersing herself in romantic books and has one heck of a big heart. In a series of events that lead her to getting in her car and driving, far, far away from her familial home, she stumbles upon an inn, an inn that so happens to be looking for a chef, and after having nearly knocked over the manger of the inn (a handsome yet brusk guy named Jacob) with her car, Eve manages to somehow land herself in this random and serendipitous job.
The story is very funny and breaks a whole lot of stereotypes. The story just flows and the characters themselves are great (who wouldn’t like to have Eve as a friend?). And, not only is Jacob autistic, but so is Eve and the author Talia herself – how blooming cool is that?! There unfortunately isn’t much representation in the media or literature of neurodiverse people of colour, so books like Talia’s are desperately needed! So if you want a light-hearted read, jump right into Eve’s story full of heart, fun and romance.
[You can find out more about Talia and her awesome books by visiting her website here]
The Rosie Project trilogy by Graeme Simsion
Undiagnosed 40-something Don Tilman has got his life in order. He’s got a steady job as a scientist at an Australian university, has his own flat where he lives, steady routines that sufficiently meet his home-work life balance and a friend and co-worker who, although has the tendency to baffle Don with his life choices, seems to enjoy his company. All of these things indicate to Don that he’s in the right place in his life to find a wife – and so starts the wife project. With questionnaires at the ready, he starts his mission to find the perfect match for himself, yet Don is about to find out that love rarely follows a predictable pattern and sometimes logic can’t explain the unfathomable reasons of why we like somebody. When spontaneous and laidback Rosie unexpectedly crosses paths with Don, the last thing he expects is to actually enjoy the company of this beautiful red-haired and free-spirited woman. Don doesn’t know it but he’s about to embark on a totally different scientific journey than he set out on, and this time he has no idea what the outcome will be.
I loved The Rosie Project. It had me proper chuckling-out-loud and Don’s voice narrating the story seems to speak to you right off of the page. The Rosie trilogy are light stories but certainly have substance to them and the story goes by so smoothly by that before you know it you’ve read several chapters without looking up. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a fun and well written fiction book. You just can’t help but love Don’s misadventures in a neurotypical world.
Bewilderment by Richard Powers
This tale of a boy and his scientist father is beautifully written and although I’ve yet to finish my copy, I had to include it in this blog. Set in America, Theo Byrne, a young widower, scientist and father to his 9 year old son Robin, has a lot of plates spinning. For his day job he looks for signs of life many light years away, whilst at home he is trying to keep his intelligent, funny, loving and neurodivergent son feeling safe in a rather confusing world. Then one day when Robin has a violent outburst at school, things start to topple and Theo is left trying to grapple with a world that doesn’t understand his son and a child who he’s desperate to translate our beautiful yet bewildering world to.
Highly acclaimed in the literary world and shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2021, Bewilderment so far has been a lyrical book to read, rich in exploring the nature of the natural world as well as the nature of familial bonds.
Other books I ran out of time to ramble about…
Uniquely Human by Barry M. Prizant (non-fiction)
But You Don’t Look Autistic by Bianca Toeps (non-fiction)
Odd Girl Out by Laura James (non-fiction)
Obsessive Intrusive Magical Thinking by Marianne Eloise (non-fiction)
Letters to my Weird Sisters by Joanne Limburg (non-fiction)
Strong Female Character by Fern Brady (non-fiction)
Untypical: How the World isn’t Built for Autistic People and What We Should All do About It by Pete Wharmby (non-fiction)
Unmasking Autism by Dr Devon Price (non-fiction)
Iris Grace by Arabella Carter-Johnson (non-fiction)
Neurotribes by Steve Silberman (non-fiction)
Dirty Laundry: Why Adults with ADHD are So Ashamed and What We Can Do to Help by Richard Pink & Roxanne Emery (non-fiction)
Aspergirls by Rudy Simone (non-fiction)
The Autistic Brain by Temple Grandin and Richard Panek (non-fiction)
Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty (non-fiction)
Ten Steps to Nanette by Hannah Gadsby (non-fiction)
Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle (fiction)
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (fiction)
A Boy Made from Blocks by Keith Stuart (fiction)
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. If you’re interested in finding out about more about autism, you can find my rambles on children & teenager books, tv & movies and podcasts & social media here. I hope you have enjoyed this blog and have found something that may help you or a loved one. Wishing you a lovely day, and as ever, happy reading 🙂
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