Sep 22, 2017

[Books] Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography - Audible Review

So my Audible adventure continues with more geeky biographies. And I suppose it's only fair that I get into a celebrity biography that is pretty geeky and quite gay at the same time. And what's not to love about a guy who once played a child prodigy doctor, right?

Neil Patrick Harris is famous for a variety of reasons whether it's his early career as Doogie Howser, his more recent work as Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother, his hosting gigs at the Tony Awards or his many stage performances - he really gets around. And that has gone a long way towards broadening his appeal and growing his fan base across demographic groups.

Now the very format of this book is rather unique and I'm impressed that they found a way to make it work as an audio book experience. That takes some serious creativity, as if the original book concept in itself wasn't already creative to begin with.

This book was a delight.

Synopsis: Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography is a creative autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris. This review is for the Audible audio book edition so the book was read in a specific sequence as opposed to the full Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style experience.

Literally starting from birth, the book puts you in the role of Neil Patrick Harris as you get to learn about his life by "experiencing" his life. But as this is a Choose Your Own Autobiography, it means that you will also explore various what-if side plots and alternate realities, many of which involve his death just like in the books - complete with THE END.

Starting from birth seems crazy, but this book really does try to cover a lot of his life, with a focus on what led to him becoming an entertainer (and more importantly, a magician!) and later on how he came to terms with his homosexuality. Don't get me wrong - it's not like the book gets "super gay" but its really just a open and honest sharing of the highlights of his life, including those bits.

What I Liked: First, the format was crazy fun, even in the somewhat guided audio book experience. The book felt distinctly NPH and hearing it read by him as well naturally pushes that feeling even more. And that includes the crazy, creative alternate life moments that represent alternate paths he could have taken and a whole lot of dying.

And seriously, this is a LOT of sharing and the candid approach he took to writing this memoir is pretty surprising given how celebrities are known for their efforts to protect their privacy. This does not mean he gives everything away, but he does she some really poignant moments and honest realizations that are pretty relatable a lot of times. And I really appreciated that aspect of the writing. It has been said that good writing is honest and this is a great example of that.

What Could Have Been Better: Minor challenge of the audio book experience is the fact you lose the Choose Your Own Adventure experience. The solution that they came up with was pretty decent and it remained easy enough to still follow the story. But the young reader in my head wished we could have still gone through the full adventure including holding your place in the book as you explore several branches of possibility.

The book relied on a supporting narrator to help voice contributions by other folks but it was the same voice regardless of whose quotes he was reading aloud. It was a lot more distracting when he was reading female voices. Again, it's a minor complaint but it did break the illusion at times.

TL;DR: Neil Patrick  Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography is a very different autobiography and one that is creative not just in its writing but also in its format. The audio book is still a delightful experience  but it's also not the full adventure that the book provides. Thus it gets 4.5 alternate lives for NPH out of a possible 5.

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