There are two ways you can read this book: the proper way, or the traditional way. The traditional way or, “violating this books explicit instructions” is how I decided to do it.
(Similarly, there are two different kinds of people reading this blog: there are those who believe memoirs and autobiographies are the same thing and those who know the difference because they, like me, actually studied it briefly in college. To the latter type of people saying this doesn’t fulfill the requirement for “memoir,” I say…well, NEIL said it’s a “bizarrely premised memoir.”)
Does the book make sense when read straight from page 1 to 291? Yes. It certainly makes it feel more like a memoir and less like an autobiography. Instead of hearing the story of NPH’s life all the way through, it’s more like getting to know him personally, one story at a time, which is how you get to know most of your friends. We see his personality shine through in the guest-spots from his friends as well as in his own tone when he shows how grateful, how humble, and how good (and sometimes bad) his sense of humor genuinely is. His love for his craft, as well as for his family is obvious as explains the luck and the work he put in to get to this point. Plus, occasionally he breaks it up with interviews and recipes.
The format itself was unusual, but it helped the reader see more into Neil’s mind, which is the true purpose of a memoir. And, metaphysically, it raises all the right questions about fate and who we would be if one tiny thing in our lives had been different.
Besides taking a difficult POV and and an unusual sequencing and making it work, the best thing about Choose Your Own Autobiography with Neil Patrick Harris is that it doesn’t appear to be holding back. If it is a memoir, the theme is his journey through show business, but mixed in is his sexual self-discovery, his creating a family, and his path to certain friendships that guide his way. And he doesn’t hold back from any of it. His sexuality and relationship with David Burtka is by no means the focus of this book, but (as with any married couple) he is a huge part of his life and ingrained in everything else, as his self-discovery is in his young adulthood. I feel like his showing that he hasn’t always been so open and unafraid is going to be helpful for other kids going through their own self-discovery. That’s what he says he wants, is to “show by example.”
All in all, the book was genuinely warm and genuinely funny, but also genuinely well written, which is the perfect trifecta of the memoir genre.
My favorite thing about this book: The magic tricks! They’re pretty fantastic.
My least favorite thing about this book: Probably his outing with Harold and Kumar, but that’s just no my humor.
Who I would most like to recommend this book to: Obviously anyone who is a Neil Patrick Harris fan, but also people who are questioning their identity in ANY sense.
Where I read this book: Okay, when I added this category, I thought I’d be reading in cool places again, like last year, but now I’m not so sure because every one of these is just “at home” or “at work.” Geez.
Where this book sits on my bookshelf: After From Dead to Worse of the Sookie Stackhouse series and Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter.
(Just in case you’re interested: Neil Patrick says, “It gets better,” “It’s bigger,” and “It’s not just for gays any more.” …but I’m starting to forget what “it” is.)
(Also, if you’re a HIMYM fan who is about as happy with the series finale as I am, that is to say, not a gorram bit, Neil has some encouraging words for you on page 144. It’s okay to skip to it. It’s what Neil would want.)