Reading list

9 books that explore autism

The first child was diagnosed with autism 75 years ago, but the condition remains one that’s  often misunderstood. If you’re looking to read more about it, these books offer lots of places to start


In A Different Key

John Donvan and Caren Zucker

This Pulitzer-finalist is a social history of autism, starting with Donald Triplett, who 75 years ago was the first child to be diagnosed with autism. It looks at individual stories of children, parents and doctors, as well as the big picture; following controversies and discoveries up to the present day.


The Rosie Project

Graeme Simsion

Author Graeme Simsion deliberately decided not to diagnose his hero Don Tillman on the page, but he’s made it clear in interviews that he believes Don would be diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Don’s story is an uplifting, fun, moving tale of finding love in the most unlikely of circumstances, with the last person you’d expect to fall for. 


Fingers in the Sparkle Jar

Chris Packham

In his autobiography, beloved Springwatch and Really Wild Show presenter Chris Packham talks openly about having Asperger’s, how it impacted his life and his work, and how his love of nature and animals helped him overcome some of the difficulties he faced. Praised for his openness and emotional honesty, Packham’s coming of age story is a fantastically written memoir about trying to find your place in the world. 



Ben Gijsemans

A quirky graphic novel about a man who spends all his free time visiting museums and art galleries. Hubert talks to very few people, and doesn’t understand the actions of most of them, including the neighbour who tries to seduce him. Belgian artist Gijsemans captures Hubert’s life with gorgeous details in this beautifully-told story.


Look Me in the Eye

John Elder Robison

Robison knew he was different from a very young age, but was labelled a ‘social deviant’ rather than being correctly diagnosed and supported. This darkly funny memoir about growing up with Asperger’s is also the story of Robison’s relationship with his brother Chris, who went on to become author Augusten Burroughs. 


The London Eye Mystery

Siobhan Dowd

The hero of Dowd’s award-winning mystery story is Ted, a boy with Asperger’s. When his cousin Salim disappears on the London Eye, Ted has to figure out what has happened, and whether Salim is even still alive - and his unique perspective proves vital to the task. Dowd passed away in 2007, but Wells & Wong author Robin Stevens is bringing Ted back this summer with a sequel called The Guggenheim Mystery. 


The Autistic Brain

Temple Grandin

For an incredibly readable but thoroughly researched look at autism, try this book on living with autism by activist and public speaker Temple Grandin. It’s a smooth mix of Grandin’s personal experiences and research, with a focus on the biology and genetics of the autistic brain. 



Belinda Bauer

In this Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year our hero is Patrick Fort, a medical student in Cardiff who has Asperger’s. Fixated on the death of his father in a car accident, he wants to study why people die, rather than focusing on keping them alive. But things escalate when the evidence from a cadaver doesn’t match the official cause of death… 


The Spark

Kristine Barnett

For a non-fiction look at autism, try Kristine Barnett’s book about her son Jacob, who has an IQ higher than Einstein and a photographic memory. He’s developed a theory in astrophysics that’s put him in the running for a Nobel Prize, but when he was younger experts recommended restricting his behaviour – advice that Barnett opted to refuse. A fantastic story that shows the importance of embracing difference. 



For more information or support, visit the National Autistic Society.

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