Choose Your Own Autobiography

End Date:  November 25th

Author:  Neil Patrick Harris

Published:  2015

Genre:  Autobiography

Pages:  304 (paperback)

Selected By:  BillMo

Average Review:  Scoring Liked Book

“Seeking an exciting read that puts the ‘u’ back in aUtobiography?  Look no further than this entertaining and innovative memoir, in which Neil Patrick Harris shares intimate and hilarious stories about everything from his early days in L.A., live on the How I Met Your Mother set, secrets from backstage at award shows, and family life with David, Harper, and Gideon.  In a fresh spin on the typical celebrity narrative, he lets you, the reader, choose which path you want him to follow.  All this plus magic tricks, cocktail recipes, embarrassing pictures from his time as a child actor, and even a closing song!”

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Gigglemug Reviews

BillMo:  Scoring Liked Book

I had a great life as Neil Patrick Harris!  I chose to follow the path that led me through a great childhood with a fairy-tale ending – I may have even teared up a little.  I actually liked this enough that I’m going back and choosing different paths so I can read parts that I missed due to my earlier choices.

But when you’re making your way down the yellow brick road, which winds its way through the rows of the audience, you’re on your “hind legs”?  The director feels there’s no other practical choice, so it’s okay.  You don’t.  You consider it a gross inconsistency that besmirches the meticulous realism of the rest of the high school production of The Wizard of Oz.

Harris’s interactive method of storytelling kept me interested (which was the point), and I liked the way he told his true story almost as much as the creative ways he presented the options that allowed you to choose how you wanted his life to go next.  I hope all that I read was actually true; if so, it sounds like he had very supportive parents and, despite having some bad experiences, his life has been mostly good.  To be honest, I wouldn’t really even say the bad experiences were even all that bad – actually, yeah, let me strike out the whole “despite having some bad experiences” bit and replace it with “despite having a few struggles to overcome.”  But even then, it did not sound as if he faced the same challenges as many child actors, and I give him and his supportive family mad props for not going down the dark, self-destructive road that seems to hit so many people who literally grow up in the spotlight.  It’s refreshing to have a celebrity of my own childhood not end up smeared all over the tabloids due to horrific choices, and he sounds like an interesting individual – I can’t wait to go back and read more about him.  As an added bonus, I got to live the real life of Doogie Howser, M.D., which I used to watch, so it was amaaaaaaazing!  Doogie seems to be one of those iconic roles or titles that, no matter what they do afterwards, celebrities never quite grow away from, like Vanilla Ice or Sheldon Cooper: that’s what defines them for an entire generation of people.  Thus, Neil Patrick Harris is and always shall remain Doogie until everyone who first knew him as Doogies is dead; since that’s a depressing thought, let’s just assume he’s going to stay Doogie forever.

When you watch your cousin do a card trick at Thanksgiving, you’re still blown away by it, even though he’s got no flair and he smells funny.

I really enjoyed the cross-country trip that his husband David planned.  David clearly loves Neil (Doogie) so much, and this whole section had me in tears, so I hope this piece of the story was true.  He sounds like a fantastic partner and he put so much time and effort into planning Neil’s (Doogie’s) 40th birthday trip – he truly made it the trip of a lifetime.  (And I’d know, because I was playing the part of Neil – Doogie – in this interactive tale, so I can tell you it was a trip of a lifetime.)  This was one of my favorite parts of the whole book.

No matter how old you get, you will never forget the image of them sitting in those folding chairs.  It will remain your personal image of what unconditional love looks like.

And I learned something new: there’s a suite at the top of the Cinderella Castle in Disney World – yes! a suite at the top of the friggin’ castle! – but it doesn’t really matter, because unless I win a lottery or a prize for a free stay, I will never get even as far as the doorway: that sucker costs $40,000 a night.  But the pictures are beautiful!

5.  Lift the delicious bagel-baby up toward the camera, smile, and wink.

I recommend this book to others and encourage reading it more than once.  I know, I know, I’ve only read it once as of yet, but I’ve already restarted it so I can see more of the options and learn more about Neil’s (Doogie’s) life – it’s really interesting!  (Off-topic: I hope all of the Americans reading this had a Happy Thanksgiving, and that your tummies are full of turkey or whatever your favorite holiday foods are!)

BillMo’s Favorite Character(s):  n/a

BillMo read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.

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Lady Esbe: Scoring Liked Book

While a Choose-Your-Own autobiography makes no sense in the audiobook format, the manner in which Neil Patrick Harris delivers it does make sense: he narrates his stories himself, giving a warning ahead of time that he will complete one storyline, then circle back to the alternate choices, so you truly miss nothing by listening to the audiobook version.  Plus you gain the added benefit of Neil Patrick Harris’s entertaining narrative, which, in the end, is what saved this book for me.  I particularly liked his rendition of Scott Caan – you’ve got to hear it to really “get” it, but trust me, it was worth it.

All in all, what I enjoyed most was his delivery, but as far as his experiences, well… there just weren’t that many of them, to be honest, which left me asking why he felt it necessary to even write an autobiography.  By his own account, he grew up in a happy home with good, hardworking parents and a solid relationship with his only sibling (an older brother), and the only real personal struggle he seems to have had to overcome was the mix of emotions that arise related to his discovery of his sexuality and the acceptance of who he was.

The thing that irritated me the most was that in relaying his life’s story I found absolutely nothing extraordinary about it, to such a degree that, had I not had it on Audible, I truly think I would not have been able to even finish it.  I hate to be this person, but seriously, dude, you are a privileged white guy who had no true adversity in his life, in spite of your sexuality, nor did you have experiences that an outsider might shake their head at or agree with.  Honestly, there was a lot of name-dropping and a few insights into his career, but nothing really made me want to learn anything more about him, and, quite frankly, I could have gone without knowing most of the contents of his book to this day.

Harris is hardly exceptional: he has suffered very little in his life, there’s no grisly tale of abuse, there’s been no truly hard knocks that he had to overcome and learn from, etc.  The only truly amazing thing within these pages is that he managed to navigate his career as a child star without becoming an addict or asshole, like so many do.  The book gives you the sense of his self-discovery and his relatively average entertainment career, but I do not believe that someone in his early forties should even be writing an autobiography – he lived an average life for his circumstances, so I still cannot wrap my head around why, exactly, he wrote this.

In spite of the overall lack of story, I will give him props on the delivery, which was entertaining, but beyond that the book is a trifle flat.  It was a neat concept and that Choose-Your-Own hook will probably sell it, but overall I found it highly boring.  If you are a fan of Harris and want to know everything you can about him, I recommend giving the Audible version a go.  It makes sense as he reads it, and his delivery is quite animated and truly will make the book worthwhile.

Lady Esbe’s Favorite Character(s):  n/a

Esbe listened to the Audible audiobook version of this selection.

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Elle Tea:  Scoring It Was OK Book

I quite like Neil Patrick Harris as an actor.  I was the right age but had no inclination to jump on the Doogie Howser, M.D., wagon (we were more of a Tales from the Crypt and Quantum Leap kind of fam), but it was such a popular character that I naturally learned to identify him solely as “Doogie” pretty much up until he took on the role of Barney in How I Met Your Mother, which was when I began to really appreciate his acting style and delivery (he pretty much single-handedly carried that show in my opinion, but even he couldn’t save it from that horrible excuse for an ending).  And he won me completely when he appeared as the titular aspiring supervillain in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

That being said, I now have to add this: I don’t get this whole everyone-needs-a-memoir craze.  If you’re still healthy and young (Harris is in his mid-forties), I’ve no idea why you need a memoir, to be honest.  Esbe read Born a Crime, and that one I do get (somewhat, though I think it still could have waited another thirty to forty years and been compiled in a single tale of his life); in this case, Trevor Noah, who is in his mid-thirties, tells the sometimes tragic, sometimes infuriating, and sometimes humorous tale of growing up as a mixed-race child in South Africa during apartheid.  See?  That’s less a wee jaunt down memory lane than it is a first-hand account of wholly-f*cked-up that deserves to never be forgotten and which I’d personally be interested to know more about.  As both a gamer and a nerd, I loved The Guild, but I made the mistake of reading Felicia Day’s memoir You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

Which had a similar impact on me as Choose Your Own Autobiography.  Like Day, Harris is a witty, creative, imaginative, intelligent, wacky sort of person.  And I quite dig witty, creative, imaginative, intelligent, wacky sorts of people.  But I think if they’ve lived to their thirties and forties without too terribly much happening to warrant telling the world, then they should hold off until their later years when they can wrap it all up in a bow from beginning to end.  Katharine Hepburn’s Me: Stories of My Life is a great example of this: Hepburn grew up in a relatively wealthy household, went to college, hit the stage, eventually made it into movies, then tumbled back down the ladder of success with failure after failure at the box office – had she written her memoirs in her mid-thirties, that’s all she would have had to say.  But she waited to churn out her life’s story until she had actually lived most of that life (she was in her eighties when Me was published), and so we get to learn not just of her relatively normal upbringing and the path she took to get into The Biz, but also of how she orchestrated her own comeback, the movies of her later years (Lion in Winter FTW), retirement, and, of course, Spencer Tracy.

After reading Choose Your Own Autobiography, I’m at the same point I was at with You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): what was the point of this?  Harris, if the “logical path” was all true, has lived a fairly charmed life: he grew up in an upper-middle-class American household with a loving and supportive family and, while never quite breaking into the Brad Pitt level of fame (which I’m pretty sure requires one to sell one’s soul), he has managed to become extraordinarily wealthy doing exactly what he loves, not to mention that he is a recognizable and fairly beloved celebrity.  He works very hard, and he’s in a loving, supportive relationship with a wonderful man, and they have two wonderful children.

The end.

I actually got so bored with his vanilla life (and, truth be told, a little impatient with the amount of times he mentioned an awards show he hosted, some famous individual with whom he schmoozed or rubbed shoulders, or something he purchased, was invited to, or did that the average pleb would never be granted access to or be able to afford) that I stopped reading the “legit story” of his life and went wholly with the ridiculous version.  And when all of that failed, I wrapped it up quickly by only choosing paths that led me to magic tricks.

So, all in all, it was a book.  Neil Patrick Harris wrote it, so it was as amusing, witty, and charming as you’d expect.  Using the “Choose Your Own Adventure” format was a big benefit for me, as it allowed me to break from what I found dull and instead set my sights on what turned out to be my favorite tidbits of this book: David’s recipe for homemade pasta with a decadently delicious bolognese sauce and a handful of Neil’s magic tricks.

I’d recommend this to the die-hard fans of Neil Patrick Harris.

Elle Tea’s Favorite Character(s):  n/a

Elle read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.

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