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Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's Paperback – September 9, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 1,096 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Robison's thoughtful and thoroughly memorable account of living with Asperger's syndrome is assured of media attention (and sales) due in part to his brother Augusten Burroughs's brief but fascinating description of Robison in Running with Scissors. But Robison's story is much more fully detailed in this moving memoir, beginning with his painful childhood, his abusive alcoholic father and his mentally disturbed mother. Robison describes how from nursery school on he could not communicate effectively with others, something his brain is not wired to do, since kids with Asperger's don't recognize common social cues and body language or facial expressions. Failing in junior high, Robison was encouraged by some audiovisual teachers to fix their broken equipment, and he discovered a more comfortable world of machines and circuits, of muted colors, soft light, and mechanical perfection. This led to jobs (and many hilarious events) in worlds where strange behavior is seen as normal: developing intricate rocket-shooting guitars for the rock band Kiss and computerized toys for the Milton Bradley company. Finally, at age 40, while Robison was running a successful business repairing high-end cars, a therapist correctly diagnosed him as having Asperger's. In the end, Robison succeeds in his goal of helping those who are struggling to grow up or live with Asperger's to see how it is not a disease but a way of being that needs no cure except understanding and encouragement from others. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* If one looked at only Robison's impish sense of humor (he once ordered a blow-up sex doll to be delivered to his junior-high-school teacher—at school), or his success as a classic-car restorer, it might be impossible to believe he has the high-functioning form of autism spectrum disorder called Asperger's syndrome. Clues abound, however, in his account of a youth encompassing serious inability to make and keep friends; early genius at pyrotechnics, electronics, and math; and pet names such as Poodle for his dog and Snort and Varmint for his baby brother. Much later, he calls his wife Unit Two. It is easy to recognize these telltale traits today, but Robison went undiagnosed until he was 40. In the 1960s, he was variously labeled lazy, weird, and, worse, sociopathic. Consequently, his childhood memories too often read like a kid's worst nightmares. Not only did his parents fail to understand the root of his socialization problems but they were also virtually as dysfunctional as the pair Augusten Burroughs portrays in Running with Scissors (2002). 'Nough said? Not nearly. Robison's memoir is must reading for its unblinking (as only an Aspergian can) glimpse into the life of a person who had to wait decades for the medical community to catch up with him. Chavez, Donna --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307396185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307396181
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,096 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's by John Elder Robison mainly because I was enticed by reviews and interviews to explore the mind of someone who (because of Asperger's Syndrome) thinks a bit differently from us so-called "regular" folks. The book centers on John's struggle to become socially and economically successful as a person with Asperger's Syndrome. His condition wasn't diagnosed until he turned 40.

The two main things about this book that stood out for me (from beginning to end) were: (1) Mr. Robison doesn't give many clues about how he expects the reader to react to his stories. In other words, you get to make your own judgments - whether about his legal and illegal pranks or about his decision to not get involved with groupies (for two examples). He doesn't spend much time defending his behavior and he isn't dogmatic about what's right and what's wrong. (2) He thinks a lot and in unusual ways. As I read about his sometimes-elaborate thought processes, I remembered what a friend told me long ago: "If you're confused, good! It means you're thinking!" And I pondered some of the social conflicts in my own life caused by what others have characterized as "thinking too much."

In chapter 26 "Units One Through Three," Mr. Robison hilariously describes in frank terms the thought processes he went through when choosing his wife. ("Choosing" isn't the right word, but I promised myself I wouldn't write any spoilers into my review.
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Format: Hardcover
A warning about this book: Asperger's Syndrome is not quite what the author makes it out to be. If you were to only learn about the diagnosis from this memoir, here is what you might expect: "symptoms" that include amazingly innovative genius and a life of non-stop social and financial success.

The author: 1. makes numerous friends during adolescence, finding (as he describes it) acceptance and comfort in the music scene of his community. 2. makes a romantic connection during this time, sustaining a long-term relationship, including (later) marriage and a child. 4. states that he does not like small talk, does not like change. When does he become aware of this? As he is on tour with the worlds biggest rock band (He is reminded of his small-talk aversion later in the book...when he succeeds in the corporate world, functioning as both a creative asset and supervisor.) The biggest dilemma in the book: should he remain a business executive...or, should he open and run his own business?

Wow. Turns out that Asperger's is fun and empowering...assuming, of course, that you're a socially-adaptable techno-genius with highly marketable engineering skills.

'Look Me in the Eye' does make for a fascinating window into Asperger's Syndrome. However, if you are purchasing this book, please bear in mind: few people (and I mean very few people, including neuro-typicals) are as high-functioning as the author. This is a memoir by someone with Asperger's Syndrome, not an educational tool about it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
People who suffer from Asperger's Syndrome view the world through very different eyes than do normal people. Things that seem perfectly mundane to normals take on a whole new appearance when someone with Asperger's looks at them. Aspergians (a term coined by Robison) do not pick up on the social cues and body language other people do. They don't think things that most people peceive as important matter; and things they believe are of vital importance are seen as inconsequential by normals.

Think for a minute about the sound of nails on a chalkboard. To many normals, the sound is something to make you grit your teeth and wish for its absence. To Aspergians, the sound can range from absolutely intolerable to pleasant, depending on how their particular affect of the syndrome perceives it. This difference in perception is one reason it's so hard for Aspergians to relate to the world.

John Elder Robison has given us a solid look at what it's like to be an Aspergian. He points out that the syndrome gives as well as takes. Although he had a difficult time as a child and adolescent only partly due to his Asperger's (he was afflicted with a pair of nutcase parents, which is the last thing anyone with Asperger's needs), his gifts for 'hearing' a sound and then being able to construct devices to make that sound a reality gave him successful careers as a tech wizard working with the sound systems and instruments of the rock group KISS, among others; and a successful career (as defined by the mundanes) as an engineer for Parker Brothers in the very early days of electronic games and early game consoles.
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