Book Reviews

Book Review: Look me in the eye: My life with Asperger’s

***This post has been cross-posted at Bond with Books. Do visit Bond with Books for more books views and reviews by other bloggers***

This is a book by John Elder Robison. An autobiographical book about his life with Asperger’s Syndrome. The book appealed to me on two levels — it appealed to my love for reading and to my love for psychology.

First and foremost, for those that are not aware, let me explain to you what Asperger’s syndrome is. Individuals with Aspergers have significant difficulties in forming and developing appropriate social interactions, difficulties in communication skills and tend to have restrictive interests. This website has more information. Anyway, the best example I can provide about an individual with Asperger’s syndrome would be Sheldon Cooper from the show ‘Big Bang Theory‘ (although, please note that not all individuals with Aspergers are geniuses!)
But I digress.
Going back to the book…it is a great insight into the life of someone with Aspergers. What makes it even more fascinating is that John Robison was not diagnosed until about the age of 40! The title of the book is because some individuals with Aspergers, like John, have difficulty maintaining eye contact when they speak to others…resulting in people telling them to “look me in the eye”.
Whilst growing up, John failed to understand why people didn’t understand him. Or why it was so difficult for him to make friends with kids his age. Or why people misunderstood him when he smiled at the fact that someone else met with an accident. Or why people and psychiatrists back then thought he was a psychopath in the making. John writes about his dysfunctional life — an alcoholic father, a mother with a mental illness, an abusive childhood, a dodgy therapist who was supposed to help the family, and a younger brother who back then to him, was a real pain.
John takes us through his journey as a child where he struggled to make friends but learnt around the age of 9 what was acceptable and what was not. (e.g. patting someone on the head was not acceptable or talking about your helicopter when they showed you their truck was not the etiquette). He takes us through his adolescent years where he dropped out of high school and got interested in electronics and cars, his misadventures with women, and his attempts to fit it. He takes us through his adult years where he formed relationships with women, worked with Pink Floyd briefly and the band KISS doing special effects for their live shows, getting a ’stable’ job in the corporate world and finally ditching that to become his own boss at an automobile company.
It is a heartwarming book and you can literally see the struggles of a little boy who has no clue what’s going on with him. You feel uplifted when years later, this little boy finds out his diagnosis. And sees the light. And everything seems to make sense to him after 40 long years of struggle and compensation.
For me personally, given that I work with some teens with Aspergers, it was all the more insightful. It was life from their point of view. It also opens up the world of Aspergers to the population out there explaining everything in lay terms.
If you like autobiographical books and enjoy reading about overcoming hardships and a dysfunctional childhood, this book is worth a read.My rating:

Until next time,


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  • Sharalyn
    14 December 2009 at 5:33 am

    I love that book. I see my son in him and helps me to see reasons behind his behaviours. And hope for his future. I’ve already passed my copy on.

  • Madmother
    14 December 2009 at 8:01 am

    Glad you enjoyed it. I am going to let Boy 1 read it these holidays, but hoping it doesn’t give him too many ideas. Have visions of firecrackers wired to his acoustic guitar setting fire to the house…

  • livemorenow
    14 December 2009 at 8:29 am

    Great review. I had never head of Aspergers Syndrome until a few years ago but now I seem to hear of more people in my greater circle of friends who have children with Aspergers quite regularly.

  • Mahmud faisal
    14 December 2009 at 11:24 am

    nice review!! nice to know of the book….

  • Magali
    14 December 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Nice book review. We’re just learning about Asperger’s Syndrome in college this year (& I hadn’t heard of it before that.)

  • Pesto Sauce
    14 December 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Good write but very scary too….I share many symptoms having been a recluse all through. Tell me is there a test to diagnose this?

  • Sidthegnomenator
    14 December 2009 at 8:14 pm

    As a parent of a child with ASD, I thought this might be an interesting book to read. It started really well: the stories of his days at school were so familiar. It was very sad and made me pleased that we now understand the conditions on the autistic spectrum better.

    Once the author reached adulthood, however, the book turned into a glorified bout of name-dropping. I got bored with it. I’m interested in how he got through his days with aspergers, not how many famous people he met.

  • Psych Babbler
    16 December 2009 at 11:55 am

    @ Sharalyn: Welcome! Y’know, you’ve given me a great idea to recommend the book to parents of kids with Aspergers. At least to give them hope that a diagnosis is not the end of the world…

    @ MM: Lol…I’m sure he will enjoy it though!

    @ Jacintah: To be honest, autism spectrum seems to be the new ADHD. I think these diagnoses come in waves…I’d never heard of it until I studied psych!

    @ Mahmud: Thanks!

    @ Magali: Oh I heard about it the first time in college as well…thanks to psych!

    @ Pesto: Don’t self-diagnose. Never a good idea. Usually a psychologist or a paediatrician conducts a comprehensive interview to diagnose the same…

    @ Sid: It’s definitely a great thing that we do understand ASDs better now. I agree with you that the adulthood stuff got a bit dull…I think I skim-read those chapters. But it was still great in the end to see how he managed to live with his difficulties…

  • Smita
    19 December 2009 at 6:19 pm

    May be will give it a try!!

    A very well written review!

  • Psych Babbler
    21 December 2009 at 5:51 am

    @ Smita: Thanks! Do read and let me know your views…

  • John Elder Robison
    22 December 2009 at 2:51 am

    I’m glad you liked my story. I hope to see the sequel in bookstores next fall. Did you know I have a pretty active blog community here, and I’m on Facebook and on the Psychology Today site too?

    Best wishes
    John Elder Robison

  • Psych Babbler
    24 December 2009 at 11:47 am

    @ John: Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment on my blog! Will definitely check out your blog on Psychology Today. Thanks!

  • Eyesight Crystal
    6 July 2010 at 12:32 pm