A Life Well-Lived: Autism Books, Both Fiction and Fact

shelved under Self-Help and Health & Medicine

Imagine landing on an alien planet (or in a foreign country), where every gesture and each subtle change in body language communicates things you can never hope to understand. Everyone around you seems to have hidden knowledge of ‘how to be.’ You don’t catch jokes, you misunderstand sarcasm, and you’re likely to suffer from social isolation because your brain is hardwired differently. Autism is a developmental disorder that affects up to 1 in 200 children. Even in its mildest form, Asperger’s Syndrome, autism present profound challenges and unique opportunities for people living with the condition and for their families and friends. This list traces some of the best fiction, memoir, and research about people with high-functioning autism.


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon

This is a brilliant book, whose protagonist is an autistic teenager. Written in a lively, murder-mystery style, it is also gently humorous and a great read. This book is an excellent introduction to the subject of autism, especially when it comes to quirky behavior and difficult social relationships.


The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism

by Sean Barron, Dr. Temple Grandin

By the same author who transformed our understanding of autism through her breakthrough book Thinking in Pictures, this work is a journey through the maze of human interaction without being overly academic. With great examples, and excellent use of their own personal stories, the authors have created an easy-to-read ‘traveler’s guide’ to social relationships.


The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome

by Tony Attwood

Attwood combines the best research, most compelling personal stories, and useful resources in one book. He is a renowned expert on the subject of autism, and in this book he turns his attention to the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. With an impressive array of specific approaches to supporting people with Asperger’s Syndrome, this book is an essential part of any clinician’s library. However, it is written in a style that is also accessible and attractive to laypeople who are interested in broadening their understanding of this point on the autism spectrum.


The Speed of Dark

by Elizabeth Moon

This is a beautiful, gripping story about identity, love, and human frailty. It follows the path of Lou, a high-functioning autistic man confronted with the possibility of a ‘cure’ for his disorder. Exploring questions such as what it means to be human, how we discover who we really are, and what constitutes our sense of self as we relate to the world, this book deals unflinchingly with all the big issues.


Aquamarine Blue 5: Personal Stories Of College Students With Autism

by Dawn Prince-Hughes

For people of normal or high intelligence with Asperger’s Syndrome, the years following high school can be the most difficult yet. This book is a group of essays from college students with Asperger’s Syndrome, and it offers a glimpse into the language, thought patterns, and social experiences of young adults with this form of high-functioning autism. Although it is difficult to say how much ‘editing’ the essays went through, the tone and style of most of the pieces is authentic and engaging.


Mindblindness: An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind

by Simon Baron-Cohen

People with autism do not intuitively ‘mentalize.’ In other words, they find it very difficult to understand other people’s intentions, thoughts, or feelings, or to build mental models of their own past experiences to apply to future events. Many people with Asperger’s Syndrome can learn to imitate this process by concentrating on the task of creating connections between themselves and other people in order to understand them better, but it never becomes the automatic process that most of us experience. This is a deep exploration of the cognitive aspects of autism, with a strong thread of psycho-social philosophy and the meaning of human communication.


Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism

by Dawn Prince-Hughes, Ph.D.

Dawn Prince-Hughes is an anthropologist with Asperger’s Syndrome. Her book follows her development, with a strong focus on how she ‘learned’ many of the things others take for granted: eye contact, how to take turns in conversation, small talk. Her reflections on her work with primates parallel her struggles to teach herself the social rules of engagement in human society. A fascinating 'inter-species' memoir that has much to teach us about the essence of humanity.