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Publisher's Summary

Ever since he was small, John Robison had longed to connect with other people. But by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits, including an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes, had earned him the label "social deviant". No guidance came from his mother or his father. It was no wonder he gravitated to machines, which could, at least, be counted on.

After fleeing his parents and dropping out of high school, his savant-like ability to visualize electronic circuits landed him a gig with KISS. Later, he drifted into a "real" job, as an engineer for a major toy company. But the higher Robison rose in the company, the more he had to pretend to be "normal" and do what he simply couldn't: communicate. It was not until he was 40 that an insightful therapist told him he had the form of autism called Asperger's syndrome. That understanding transformed the way Robison saw himself - and the world.

A born storyteller, Robison takes you inside the head of a boy teachers and other adults regarded as "defective". He also provides a fascinating reverse angle on the younger brother he left at the mercy of their nutty parents: the boy who would later change his name to Augusten Burroughs.

Ultimately, this is the story of Robison's journey from his world into ours, and his new life as a husband, father, and successful small business owner. It's a strange, sly, indelible account, sometimes alien, yet always deeply human.

©2007 John Elder Robison; (P)2007 Books on Tape

Critic Reviews

"Thoughtful and thoroughly memorable." (Publishers Weekly)

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  • Anne
  • Richardson, TX, USA
  • 10-27-07


What a great book! I began reading this book for educational purposes and wasn't expecting to be entertained. The humor is exceptional, but also gives insight on real life childhood differences. I listen to audio books in the car & must have looked pretty funny laughing so hard while driving alone! It's one of the best books I've read in a very long time!

33 of 34 people found this review helpful

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Interesting autobiography; not autism-informative

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The author does not have any training in science, psychology, or logic; which is not a crime in itself, but he constantly uses "I'm autistic, so therefore I cannot help but think logically!" to explain away some very illogical lines of thought and fabricated narratives. As an autistic scientist myself, this drove me up the wall.

He comes up with a lot of mighty tempting narratives that sound pretty plausible, and states them as facts and logic (think: bad evolutionary psychology papers). Nobody is born with a solid grasp on logic or science, not even autistic people (although they might have a leg-up on the competition). This is why there is extensive coursework and schooling for these subjects.

I would have much preferred that the author frame this story as an interesting autobiography of somebody with a very weird and interesting life who happened to be autistic. Did his autism influence and affect his life and perception? Certainly it did, and that makes his accounts very interesting, but he should have left out his countless "autism teaching moments" where he pauses the story to say "now see, this is all because of my autism, clearly I had no choice and clearly I was the only logical one there."

I would have removed these parts, partly because they got repetitive and obnoxious, and mostly because there is no way to parse out how much of his reactions are due to his autism and how much are due to his traumatic and tumultuous childhood (or even some combination of both).

I love autism self-advocacy and I think it is very important, but he loves to make "scientific" and "psychiatric" evaluations of his actions post-hoc, when he doesn't have any training in these fields (and this is painfully obvious). Just as a woman is uniquely qualified to speak about her experiences and feelings as a woman, she cannot describe her own biology accurately unless she had received sufficient education in biology or performed sufficient biological studies and learned that way.

For these reasons, if you are interested in autism self-advocacy or you want to learn more about autism, I would suggest sticking to Rudy Simone or Temple Grandin instead. They are more scientifically-minded than John Elder Robison and are more versed in the nuances of autism and individual experiences. If you just want to read a fun autobiography from a man who had an incredibly unusual (even for an Aspergian) life and you don't necessarily need to learn anything about autism, then Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's will fit the bill. Because don't get me wrong, it was still a fun and exciting narrative.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jill
  • Franklin, CT, United States
  • 04-04-11

An honest view of life with Aspergers

I listened to this book before I heard Mr. Robison speak at a conference. He speaks as he writes--very authentic, sometimes with humor, and committed to explaining the disorder from his own viewpoint. I enjoyed the stories he recounted in the book, even though some of them were filled with troubling experiences. He does not feel sorry for himself, but we can use some of his experiences to understand people who may view the world in a similar way.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A wonderfully honest insight

Having heard about Asperger's over the years and having some idea of what it meant this book made it all more real for me. The insight that the author gives as to why people with Asperger's are viewed as difficult and arrogant is refreshing.
Yes, some of the book is repetitive but the candid reflection of how 'normal' behaviour is incomprehensible and confusing to someone with Asperger's is great. When I got to the end of the first part and realised that I didn't have the 2nd part on my iPod and would have to wait overnight to continue listening I was gutted.
The only truely appalling thing about this book was the English accent that the narrator used for some of the characters, but thankfully they didn't have too many lines

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Aspergian and proud

With my recent diagnosis, I've been reading all I can on the subject of Asperger's, mainly personal accounts, of which this was one. Though I do wish I had paid better attention and read this book about 5 years ago, I am very glad to have read it now.

I really like when things connect. This book connected me to a new way of thinking about my life, in addition to connecting to my previous obsession with every work of Augusten Burroughs.

Some explanations might seem dry to Nypicals, but pay attention, and you'll stand to learn a lot about that loved one in your life who has always puzzled you. If you are Aspergian, they will make perfect sense and find yourself gesturing wildly and bemoaning agreement while listening to many parts of this book.

If you are looking for something more self-help than memoir, check out Robison's latest, "Be Different." Also, keep a look out this spring for his upcoming book about raising his son "Cubby" after his own diagnosis. Or, David Finch's "Journal of Best Practices," which I found also very comforting, on so many levels.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Incredibly well written, fast moving, almost novel-like, this autobiography is well worth the read/listen. Especially helpful for anyone who is friend of family of an "Asbergian>"

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Riveting, emotional, enlightening.

If you could sum up Look Me in the Eye in three words, what would they be?

Thank you for helping me understand the world of Asperger's as I embark on this journey with my 3 year old. Your insight will help change the trajectory of his life. I will be more conscientious of everything I do and say in his life and will advocate for him in all areas. The book helped me see the gift of Asperger's. Thank you for sharing your story with the world and this mama bear.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Look Me in the Eye?

When John Elder returns to his home town, a town filled with painful memories, he sees it as a chance to right a wrong. I believe this was a turning point in his life. This has been encouraging to me as I have been forced to start over in my hometown as a single, 42 year old mother of an infant. It gives me, a typical adult, hope for better days for myself and my son.

Have you listened to any of Mark Deakins’s other performances before? How does this one compare?


Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When John Elder showed compassion and empathy for his dying father. That must have been a tremendous, personal, breakthrough. What courage, what persistence, what an example for humanity.

Any additional comments?

John Elder, I cry for your heartbreak and I celebrate your victories! May you always feel loved and important!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Excellent read/listen!

Very engaging and well written. I have always been an Augusten Burroughs fan, so I really enjoyed the alternative perspective regarding their family and how different each brother's path was.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Really interesting

Finished this book quickly. It was really interesting and put together well. I never lost interest and was often eager to get back and continue with the reading. It's really nice to have a little peak into what aspergers is, especially since my now 3 year old son has been diagnosed to be on the spectrum and high functioning. If I were to find something to improve upon the book, it would have to be the addition of the author's age as of when the events took place. It was a little bit difficult for me to follow at first because I'm just to chronological order which this book does not do. But I accepted it and just listened to the stories. Very, very good book. I will be reading more of the author's books.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great book

loved it and helps me understand and confirm what my child lives with. wonderful book!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful