Book Review – Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

NPH's Choose Your Own Autobiography - Book MemoriesAuthor:  Neil Patrick Harris

Genre: Non-fiction, autobiography, humor

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Publication Date: October 14, 2014

304 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

I love Neil Patrick Harris. Like, a lot. I think he’s super funny, talented, and a really cool person. So, of course, I wanted to read his autobiography just because I like him. But then I heard about the unique format for his autobiography, a choose your own adventure, and I was sold. I fully appreciate and love when authors and publishers want to try something new, a new way of doing things that will both attract readers and help to sell new books. But this is an autobiography. It’s impossible to choose your own story when all the events have actually happened and it is based on a REAL person.

My very first note when reading this was, “Funny start! Gonna ❤ this!” It begins with a second person introduction to “you” – you are NPH for the duration of this book (except when there’s you and the real you, as in NPH – yeah, it’s as strange as it sounds). Let me put that in different words: the entire book is written in the second person. I can handle a short story or two written like this, especially when it’s horror. But a WHOLE book? Nope. It took me way too long to read this because of that. I will say it’s written in a light, funny, sometimes sarcastic way that I really enjoyed. I liked learning about NPH’s life. He’s such a cool person, and I especially loved the chapters when he was talking about his husband David Burtka and their two adorable kids. Or when he was talking about his love of the stage.

But after going through the steps (turn to page 8349734 if you want to read about this), and reaching the end THREE separate times without having read all of the chapters, I ended up just going back to the beginning and reading the book in order. I don’t know if this was just me being stupid or a lack of editing, but it was irritating. Plus, jumping around in his life (start of career, end of career, in the middle, beginning, blah blah blah) was not my favorite. I guess I prefer my autobiographies in chronological order, or close to it at least.

We got about two chapters that were what didn’t actually happen in NPH’s life (a bad childhood, ended up working at Schlotsky’s). I wish we would’ve gotten more of that. “Go to page 68478 if you want to experience a bad childhood.” Those were fun and more like an actual choose your own adventure.

The bottom line: I enjoyed learning more about NPH and the writing style was funny (though a little much at times). However, if reading a whole book in the second person sounds annoying, just be prepared for that. I would’ve preferred reading about NPH in a normal autobiography, I think.

Rating: 6 – good, but not great

Audiobook Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Author: Mindy Kaling
Narrators: Mindy Kaling
Audiobook length: 4 hours and 37 minutes
Genre: Autobiography, humor
Publisher: Random House Audio
Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

Okay, so I’ve never watched The Office (well, except for about 30 minutes of one episode I was forced to watch and didn’t like) and the only thing I’ve seen Mindy Kaling in is The 40-Year Old Virgin and about three episodes of The Mindy Project. In case you were wondering, I also didn’t like The 40-Year Old Virgin. You’re probably also wondering why in the world I would want to read/listen to a book by someone I have little to no experience with. Well, even though I haven’t seen her in much, I’ve always found her to be pretty funny and a lot of people (including author Jennifer E. Smith – who I love) have raved about how much they loved this book. I had to check it out.

I listened to this whole audiobook on a weekend trip and it made the drive feel both short and long. I doubt this book was meant to be an insightful piece of literature, which is good because it isn’t. It’s silly, light-hearted and quite fun. At times. I can’t say that this book is laugh-out-loud funny the entire time. It’s not. I did laugh though – more than I thought I would.

There’s a lot of lists in this book, and I’m a big fan of lists. We get Mindy’s favorite comedy moments, and I agree with a lot of them. Except every mention of Will Ferrell (and there are A LOT), who I don’t find funny. I didn’t really enjoy her lists about dieting – she mentions how she was constantly made fun of for her weight as a child but she was comfortable with herself, yet she is constantly trying new diets and regimes. Blah.

For the first two-thirds or so of the book, I was enjoying myself. It’s an interesting and funny memoir about her super normal childhood and upbringing and then her subsequent super unlikely rise to fame and success. But then she reaches her current height of success at NBC and the book just falls on its face. There are essays entitled “Why Do Men Put on Their Shoes So Slowly?” and “In Defense of Chest Hair” which are just as silly and pointless as they sound. This is when I was rolling my eyes a lot, which probably isn’t that great of an idea while you’re driving down the interstate but I couldn’t help it.

Overall, I mostly enjoyed this book, because Mindy is charming, funny, silly, and as much a fan of lists as I am. It made my trip feel a lot more fun than it usually is and the boring, drab trip down to the coast of Mississippi wasn’t as blah as normal. So yay for that! But then the trip back home started off well and then made me wish I had brought another audiobook. I’m glad I finally listened to it though. Recommended for fans of Mindy Kaling, for sure, and fans of fun audiobooks, Hollywood stories, and tales of living in NYC.

P.S. If you aren’t a fan of Kaling’s voice or are iffy about it, I’d read the physical book.