Welcome all! Here you can find all the books I’ve read that feature characters with autism, or self-help type books that have helped me and my family understand autism.
A little about me – I’ve always known that I was different, a bit weird. Felt the world a little too brightly or intensely. Felt people a little too intensely. It wasn’t until I was 26 that I realised I was probably autistic. A friend of mine who shares many of my quirks and medical issues was diagnosed as having Asperger’s, and so I headed to books and resources to help understand them and their needs more. As she predicted, I had a huge revelation at 8 in the morning on a Sunday where I saw myself in the pages of anything labelled “autistic women”.
I decided that I wanted to read more about people’s experience of autism, be it fiction or non fiction, and that’s where The Essential Autie Book List was born. It is a work in progress and will be updated as I read books, as I want to be able to include a mini review about each book once I’ve finished it. If you want to know what I’m reading or what is in the wings waiting to be read, feel free to ask me on Twitter.
Shtum by Jem Lester
I ended up reading the whole of Shtum in a single day. It completely sucked me in in a way I was not expecting. Ben’s son Jonah is severely autistic, and as their council refuses to pay for residential schooling, Ben and his wife agree to a fake separation in a hope that single parenthood will help tip the scales. Ben and Jonah move in with Ben’s elderly father Georg, and through battles against the council, the three generations of men open up to each other. Ben is a brilliantly sardonic, awful man, who says terrible things but then sweet things and you just can’t decide how much you root for him or just for Jonah to get the life he deserves. Combine personal demons, dark humour, the draconian benefits system and the history of Hungarian Jews, and you have Shtum. Thank you to Orion for sharing a copy with me for review.
The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludgwig
Once in a while a book grabs you so intensely that you cannot shake it until it is finished, and so I thoroughly enjoyed The Original Ginny Moon over the course of one night. Ginny is in a safe Forever Home after being removed from her abusive mother as a nine year old, but she is struggling. Where is her Baby Doll, and why won’t anyone go check on it? When the adults in her new life don’t listen to her, Ginny takes things into her own hands to get back to her abusive mother Gloria and to rescue her Baby Doll. Utterly engaging, and told in 1st person from Ginny’s perspective, this book sheds light not only on the struggles of autistic people (particularly in the mistranslations that occur between autistic and neurotypical) but on fostered and adopted children. I think it is going to be huge, so look out for it landing on 30th May in 2017. Thank you to HQ Stories & Harper Insider for sharing a review copy with me. I wrote more about The Original Ginny Moon here.
Harmony by Caroline Pankhurst
Camp Harmony begins as an idea between parents struggling with their autistic children and Scott Bean, the man who says he can help. As Tilly’s behaviour gets increasingly out of control, Alexandra decides to move her family to Camp Harmony to create a safe, healing atmosphere for autistic families. But all is not quite as it seems. Told from the point of view of Tilly’s sister, Iris, as they arrive at camp, with flashbacks from Alexandra starting with their first meeting with Scott, this novel weaves time, tension and truths. Chapters from Tilly intersperse these anecdotes, which really change the tone – there is no clear autistic voice, instead a semi academic deconstruction of their future. This is an excellent, intense novel. Thank you to Sceptre for sharing a copy of this with me.
An Asperger’s Adventure: The Blue Bottle Mystery by Kathy Hoopman, illustrated by Rachel Smith and adapted by Mike Medaglia
The Blue Bottle Mystery was originally written by Kathy Hoopman, and has been updated into a Graphic Novel by Rachel Smith and Mike Medaglia. The story follows Ben, who is struggling – his teacher is always angry at him, his dad doesn’t understand him, he is bullied. Only his best friend Andy seems to understand him. When Ben and Andy discover a mysterious blue bottle in the school yard, they unleash magic on the world. The story follows Ben’s diagnosis of Asperger’s and his family’s journey of understanding. Suitable for children aged 7+, or younger if they are strong solo readers or if parents read the story with them. I strongly recommend parents and children reading this together.
Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
This is the book I wish existed when I was a young girl; I strongly believe that if I’d read this, I would have realised I was autistic back then. Since Caitlin’s brother Devon was killed in a school shooting, she has felt lost. Devon helped her understand the world and her dad, who is now so sad that he struggles to understand Caitlin. When she reads the definition for “closure” in the dictionary, Caitlin decides this is what she and her dad need, and sets about to find it. Kathryn’s descriptions of how Caitlin experiences the world is detailed, accurate and shows an intimate understand of autistic people. I particularly loved how Caitlin refers to Look At The Person as an action, highlighting the consciousness that social interaction. Suitable for children aged 9+. Strongly recommend parents also read it as it is a great autistic point of view novel. I wrote more about Mockingbird here.
M is for Autism – The Students of Limpsfield Grange School, Vicky Martin, Robert Pritchard
Written by a group of teenage girls with autism and Asperger’s, M is for Autism is a fictional novel rooted in the authors’ life experiences. Beautifully illustrated with absolute nail-on-the-head accuracy for what life as an autistic girl is like, this book is a must read for any autistic girl, her family and friends. I would also say that autistic boys and adults would also find it useful – I say this as a 27 year old who hugely connected to it. Suitable for children aged 7+.
Autism, Anxiety and Me: A Diary in Even Numbers by Emma Louise Bridge with commentary by Penelope Bridge
This fantastic little book is such a brilliant idea that I’m incredibly happy it exists. Emma writes her diary entries, labelled with even numbers, covering a wide range of problems she experiences in her life over a period of time where her family moves from their house to rental accommodation. Emma is frank, witty and brilliant. At the end of her entries, her mother Penelope provides commentary and explanation of how to mediate the issues raised in Emma’s entries. This is such a brilliant all-in-one guide for parents of autistic children and teenagers, that can be passed back and forth for mutual understanding. Great differentiations are made between general sickness and autism, how to work to manage panic attacks and ways to explain society’s assumptions. I hope that every parent of an autistic child gets a copy of it. Suitable for teenagers and adults, and I believe that partners and carers would find much of the information from Penelope useful. Thank you kindly to Jessica King Publishing for sharing the copy with me.
Women & Girls on the Autistic Spectrum by Sarah Hendrickx
An excellent guide on understanding life experiences of autistic women. Split into useful sections that talk about issues and experiences faced by autistic people at different stages of their life – infancy, pregnancy, ageing etc. I found it a very useful in-depth book explaining why and how we experience things the way we do. Suitable for teenagers and adults.
Aspergirls by Rudy Simone
One of the first self-help books I read, which I shared with my parents shortly after to help us all understand that my quirks and needs were universal, and to come up with ways of working with me. The chapters are separated clearly into sensible sections – overstimulation, school, romance – and are followed by extremely useful Advice to Aspergirls and Advice to Parents sections. Each section includes a number of testimonials from autistic women talking about their experience of that particular subject in their life and how it effects them. Suitable for teenagers and adults.
General writing about autism
The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice from the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida with David Mitchell and Keiko Yoshida
The Reason I Jump is an astonishing work by 9 year old Naoki Higashida, autistic and mostly non verbal. Taught to use an alphabet keyboard to communicate, Naoki has shared his stories and his thoughts on being an autistic person. It is a privilege to hear the words of those people who share my condition, though it expresses differently there are many similarities that are reassuring to read. His words are astonishingly important, he is a person who is trying to navigate a world not built for him, and he discusses the heartbreaking clarity of being spoken about or down to. I read most of this on a train from work, flapping with joy at the shared experiences, and finished it in Kensington Gardens in between watching birds in the trees. Suitable for children aged 9+, teenagers and adults.
Neurotribes by Steve Silberman
Neurotribes is a truly astounding book that deserves its Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. As someone currently investigating their own possible autism, this was truly an essential read. Rarely does work on autism focus so much on who autistic people are, and all that they have accomplished, rather tending to focus on limits of autism solely. One thing that stood out so much to me was the enormous scientific contribution to society made by autistic people, weighed against the sheer volume of bad science that has led to complete misunderstandings of the diagnosis and a focus on cures rather than provisions. Neurotribes spans the history of autism, through Asperger’s and Kanner’s work with autistic people, through to online support networks created by autistic people, gleefully mentioning the wonderful work of Oliver Sacks, Lorna Wing, and the representation of autistic people in the media, thanks to the film Rain Man and the works of Temple Grandin. I wholeheartedly recommend this, especially if
you work with or know autistic people. Suitable for older teenagers and adults.