Book Review: Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At one point I was ready to give this a three-star rating, but in the end the sheer enthusiasm of Neil Patrick Harris over the things he loves won me over…to three-and-a-half stars, which I can’t actually assign on Goodreads. But pretend I can.

The section that nearly lost me was one of the fictionalized segments where Harris assumes a super-macho sex stud persona and involves Harold and Kumar. It was kind of gross and while I ain’t no prude, I didn’t find it at all funny, just…gross.

And that’s the worst thing about this autobiography. It deliberately subverts the entire genre by presenting it as a “choose your own adventure,” so the whole book, save for specific sections, is written in the second person, with each chapter giving you options on how to proceed. It took a bit to get used to, but I didn’t really mind it in the end. And if you ignore the choices and just flip the page, you can read the whole book (or at least it didn’t feel like I missed anything).

There are also recipes, magic tricks and testimonials of sorts from others, ranging from Penn Jilette to Sarah Silverman. Some of these are obviously done for comedic effect, others are more sincere. Illustrations and script fragments, self-interviews and more complete the package and while I can’t say it all holds together as well as it should, Harris’s fondness for performing and the adulation he has for those he admires and loves shines through brilliantly. It’s this core, along with witty observations of show business that really make the book worth reading.

And yes, there is a little dirt along the way, as Harris is not shy about pointing out other actors who may not be…quite up to standard. Or drunk. Or both.

The photos at the end, especially from when he was trying to be a super cool “straight” twenty-something, are hilarious and well worth checking out on a tablet or computer where you can see them in glorious full color. Conversely, the photos of him with his husband and kids are cute enough to be used as stock photos of wholesome gay parents.

If you’re looking for an eclectic, sarcastic biography of someone who loves show tunes, this will fill your very specific needs. If you’re hankering for a more conventional biography, you may find this particular take a bit lacking.

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Book review: Seriously…I’m Kidding

Seriously... I'm KiddingSeriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you liked DeGeneres’s previous two books, you’ll like this third volume as well. Like the others it’s a collection of oddball riffs and random thoughts, a pleasantly weird collection of stories both fictional and real, with recurring themes playing throughout. Like eating almonds in a casino and how you should never, ever do it. The affection for her partner Portia also shines through.

It’s also relatively short. The chapters are only a few pages, so if a joke doesn’t quite grab you, there’s little time to lament the fact before she’s moved on to something else. There’s also a coloring section for kids. Very thoughtful. A bit tricky for the audio book version, though.

What I like most is just how nice DeGeneres is, without sacrificing any of the humor as a consequence. A lot of the anecdotes and observation had me giggling. The whole thing is just kind of adorable.

If you’re looking for serious observations on life made easier to digest through the use of humor, you’ll want to give this book a pass. If you delight in the absurd, this is an entirely delightful way to spend a few hours.

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