Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

Neil Patrick Harris has written an autobiography. Not just any autobiography, but a choose-your-own-adventure style. The talented virtuoso’s book is a high-concept and truly different type of memoir. The introduction, which is written as a “warning,” says, “This self-serving celebrity autobiography is different from other self-serving celebrity autobiographies.” That is a correct statement. It is not your normal book. If you have read a choose-your-own-adventure book as a kid, you’ll be more familiar with it. Harris worked in a bookstore where he discovered and fell in love with those books and so he said it was the perfect way to tell his “twisty-turny” life story.

This book is more than just a book, it is an adventure that takes active participation. It contains not only stories from Harris’ life, but recipes, fictitious fables, and magic tricks interspersed with letters from his famous friends which include Amy Sedaris, Steven Bochco, Whoopi Goldberg, Sarah Silverman, and even his “How I Met Your Mother” alter ego, Barney Stinson. His stories run the gamut of his diverse career from the “Doogie” days to “How I Met Your Mother” to his successes as awards show host and Broadway star. His personal anecdotes are just as interesting: how he came out, the surrogacy process, and peeks into his family life with husband, David Burtka, and his twins, Gideon and Harper. Each excerpt is short, some are one page or one paragraph and some are around three or four pages. They end with a fork in the road. You are given a choice on how you want to proceed; what part of his life you want to explore next. As a result, you are jumping around the book, even if you try to choose the most linear path. I am a person who values order and organization, so at first I felt a bit scattered, but then my sense of adventure took over and I had fun with it. If you know anything about his life and career, you can choose the obvious wrong path to get the humorous fictional stories and then get back on track. They make for nice little detours. ¬†Sometimes if you choose an easy way out, you are lead to a page that serves as a little pep talk to give you courage to make the braver choice. At times, you’ll arrive at premature endings and it’s hard to go back and find which fork in the road led you there. You have to do a lot of the work, but you don’t mind because it’s fun. It’s a game. You definitely get bang for your buck because you can reread the book many times and get a different story. I tried to do two different paths simultaneously with my fingers holding all the different places in the pages and I got really lost and a paper cut.

I was able to attend one of his few book tour appearances. Instead of the traditional book reading or signing it was a “Conversation with Neil Patrick Harris” with Burtka as the moderator. Both of them are experienced and comfortable on a stage in front of a live audience. It provided a behind-the-scenes insight into writing the book and entertaining personal tidbits. The repartee between the two was funny and charming and down-to-earth. Burtka’s vest was causing mic static and he said that he may have made the wrong wardrobe choice and Harris responds, “you made the very vest choice.” And then jokes, “that’s the kind of humor you can find in the book.” It is. There are many funny footnotes that will point out cheesy puns or make jokes. Harris contends that his favorite part of the book was how the couple went through the surrogacy process, which he likens to a magic trick. Two men having children doesn’t happen “by chance. Am I right?” Then he and Burtka fist-bump. That got a big laugh. That kind of rapport wouldn’t have been there if it was an unrelated interviewer.

If you are an NPH fan or just looking for an all together, different kind of reading experience, pick up his book and go on an adventure.



Photo Source: Crown Archetype