Choose Your Own Autobiography, by Neil Patrick Harris

cyoaWhen I was a kid, I loved Choose Your Own Adventure novels. There’s one in particular, The Magic of the Unicorn, that I read over and over and over. Having always been a pragmatic, logical kind of person, I took a pragmatic, logical kind of approach to the unicorn book. The first few times, I read whichever path my heart desired. Then after that, I systematically explored every single possible option, one by one, in order, until I’d found every possible ending in the book. Then I went page by page through the book to verify that I hadn’t missed anything. Yes, that’s the kind of kid I was.

And really, that’s the kind of adult I am as well, except now, I have better tools. Post-it flags are my friend! I have to say, I have no idea how Neil Patrick Harris turned this into an audiobook – I might revisit the book just to see – because after the first few paths that followed fairly page-order, they started jumping everywhere in the book. My strategy? (Because yes, I had to make sure to find every single storyline.) Every time I came to a crossroads, I’d stick a flag on the “go to page XX” that I didn’t follow. Then every time I found an end to a story, or landed on something I’d already read, I’d go back to a random flag and go in a new direction.

The format of the book made it a very fun experience. It also made me read a lot faster than I would have under normal circumstances. (Especially because I don’t really read a lot of nonfiction and tend to read it very slowly.) I tore through the book in two days, until there were no more flags left to follow and it was time to skim cover to cover for anything I’d missed. Ironically, while I’d somehow missed several sections of autobiography, I’d actually found both secret hidden pages by accident well before my systematic page-by-page flipping. Success!

To note:

– This book was far better than the only other Choose Your Own Adventure book I’ve read as an adult. (To be fair, I doubt Nabokov meant Pale Fire to be a CYOA format. Even though it was, really. Only far less interesting.) (But I still like The Magic of the Unicorn best. Sorry. It’s a nostalgia thing.)

– It wasn’t entirely perfect. I admit, I could have done without ever finding the Harold and Kumar section. I know it was meant to be gross and satirical and awful, but I still could have done without it.

– My kids appreciated the magic tricks.

– I was incredibly amused at the three endings involving typical CYOA random-twists and never-to-be-filmed sequels.

– Neil Patrick Harris is awesome. Vladimir Nabokov is also awesome, though in taking himself too seriously, he missed an opportunity to pioneer the CYOA craze fourteen years before it actually began. NPH, on the other hand, does not take himself too seriously. Which leads back to the first statement of this paragraph.

The end.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
This entry was posted in 2015, Adult, Prose and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Choose Your Own Autobiography, by Neil Patrick Harris

  1. Kristen M. says:

    I gave this one to my sister for Christmas and she started it that day. I will have to get a copy for myself at some point!


  2. whatsheread says:

    I loved this on audio. While you can’t skip around and follow a certain path, he does include all of the alternatives and they provide a hilarious contrast to his real story. Plus, we get the added bonus of him acting out some of those alternative endings in a way that is very amusing. I think he did a fantastic job adopting the CYOA format for audio.


  3. Meg says:

    This sounds so fun! I loved choose-your-own-adventure books as a kid, too, and also loved finding alternate paths through the story. I am very methodical, too, and admire your Post-It way of identifying a road not taken! Will have to look for this one.


    • Amanda says:

      I only wish I’d thought of the post-it method BEFORE I’d gotten through several paths. I have a feeling not doing that from the beginning was part of the reason I missed some things. 😀


  4. Pingback: Sunday Coffee – Nonfiction Rec Requests | The Zen Leaf

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