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BOOK REVIEW: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

| 8 December 2014 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris 

Penguin – Viking
November 2014, $29.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell



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 grew up watching Doogie Howser, M.D. reruns, and have spent the last nine years waiting for more episodes of How I Met Your Mother  to watch, often over and over again,  but I knew little about Neil Patrick Harris’ personal life. I knew about David and Harper and Gideon, but not how NPH had come out, how he had met his husband, or about how he knew he was born to entertain from a very early age. Nor did I realise that he’s a magician, and Barney Stinson’s adventures in magic must have come from Neil, rather than the producers or writers of the show.

While I feel like Neil Patrick Harris is one of only a few celebrities who could get away with a Choose Your Own Autobiography, and while I absolutely ADORED reading Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was younger, I can’t help but feel I lost a lot of information in this unique style of telling.

The writing was conversational, fun, and made me laugh. It gave insight to the various stages of his career as well as his personal life, and at times it made me teary.
It was easy to tell when I had taken a “wrong turn” by the suddenly outrageous, unrealistic situations presented(usually ending in NPH’s untimely death), though on occasion I found myself expecting a death scene when the events depicted actually HAD happened.

But for all the fun I had reading this book, I felt like the hopping around served mostly to confuse.

Sure, I got to follow his adventures in magic, then his family life, then his acting career, and so on. Sure, I got to skip to the bits I wanted to read about immediately, and swing back around to catch the bits I’d missed, but with all the jumping around it was a little hard to form a clear picture in my mind as to the order of these events.

I’d still recommend it to fans of NPH or any of his performances, but I wish there had been more to it. 


And now, because I can’t work out how to fit them into the review without going off on tangents, some quotables I feel the need to share: 

One day their preschool teacher asks the students what they want to be when they grow up. Harper says, “A princess.” Gideon says, “A doughnut.”


(To the kids, David is “Daddy” and you’re “Papa.” You find it a more convenient system of nomenclature than “Daddy 1” and “Daddy 2,” or “Sinners A and B.”)


Alyson had two babies over the run of the show-real one, the kind that make real poop- so she was always sort of the mother figure among us. I think she was the heart of the show, whereas Josh was the brains, Jason the spiritm Cobie the soul, and I was the cock.


How did you do it? You’re not going to tell you. Magicians never share their secrets, even with themselves.


You feel like a fish out of water; a deer in the headlights; even, in your wildest moments, like a fish in the headlights.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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