24 Books to Read for World Autism Awareness Day

Posted on March 29, 2017 by

April marks Autism Awareness Month, which is a great time to dive into one of these intriguing reads about autism. From nonfiction memoirs to fascinating fiction in a variety of genres, check out the books below, complete with publishers’ descriptions.

 

Fiction

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.

 

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer follows his bestselling debut novel, Everything Is Illuminated, with an unexpectedly hilarious and affecting story about New York City in the period following September 11.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close recasts recent history through the eyes of Oskar Schell, an unusually intelligent nine-year-old on an urgent quest to find the lock that matches a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center. This unlikely adventure takes Oskar through every city borough and into contact with survivors of all sorts, and it’s his irrepressible voice — one that few writers could conceive as imaginatively as Foer does — that transforms the tragedy of circumstance into an exhilarating tribute to love.

 

The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

She is the girl with the dragon tattoo — a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution.

Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker — a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it…

The duo who captivated millions of readers in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest join forces again in this adrenaline-charged, uniquely of-the-moment thriller.

 

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Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos

Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos

Charles Marlow teaches his high school English students that language will expand their worlds. But linguistic precision cannot help him connect with his autistic son, his ex-wife, or his college-bound daughter, who has just flown the nest. He’s at the end of a road he’s traveled on autopilot for years when a series of events forces him to think back on the lifetime of decisions and indecisions that have brought him to this point. With the help of an ambitious art student, an Italian-speaking nun, and the memory of a boy in a white suit who inscribed his childhood with both solace and sorrow, Charles may finally be able to rewrite the script of his life.

From the best-selling author of Broken for You, Language Arts is an affecting tale of love, loss, and language — its powers and its perils.

 

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer

When Maxon met Sunny, he was seven years, four months, and 18-days old. Or, he was 2693 rotations of the earth old. Maxon was different. Sunny was different. They were different together.

Now, 20 years later, they are married, and Sunny wants, more than anything, to be “normal.” She’s got the housewife thing down perfectly, but Maxon, a genius engineer, is on a NASA mission to the moon, programming robots for a new colony. Once they were two outcasts who found unlikely love in each other: a wondrous, strange relationship formed from urgent desire for connection. But now they’re parents to an autistic son. And Sunny is pregnant again. And her mother is dying in the hospital. Their marriage is on the brink of imploding, and they’re at each other’s throats with blame and fear. What exactly has gone wrong?

Sunny wishes Maxon would turn the rocket around and come straight-the-hell home.

When an accident in space puts the mission in peril, everything Sunny and Maxon have built hangs in the balance. Dark secrets, long-forgotten murders, and a blond wig all come tumbling to the light. And nothing will ever be the same…

A debut of singular power and intelligence, Shine Shine Shine is a unique love story, an adventure between worlds, and a stunning novel of love, death, and what it means to be human.

 

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

In an insightful, deeply human story reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Daniel Isn’t Talking, and The Reason I Jump, Lisa Genova offers a unique perspective in fiction — the extraordinary voice of Anthony, a nonverbal boy with autism. Anthony reveals a neurologically plausible peek inside the mind of autism, why he hates pronouns, why he loves swinging and the number three, how he experiences routine, joy, and love. In this powerfully unforgettable story, Anthony teaches two women about the power of friendship and helps them to discover the universal truths that connect us all.

 

Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman

Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World

A transporting and brilliant comic novel narrated by an unforgettable woman: Karen Nieto, an autistic savant whose idiosyncrasies prove her greatest gifts.

As intimate as it is profound, and as clear-eyed as it is warmhearted, Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World marks an extraordinary debut by the award-winning Mexican playwright, journalist, and poet Sabina Berman.

Karen Nieto passed her earliest years as a feral child, left alone to wander the vast beach property near her family’s failing tuna cannery. But when her aunt Isabelle comes to Mexico to take over the family business, she discovers a real girl amidst the squalor. So begins a miraculous journey for autistic savant Karen, who finds freedom not only in the love and patient instruction of her aunt but eventually at the bottom of the ocean swimming among the creatures of the sea. Despite how far she’s come, Karen remains defined by the things she can’t do — until her gifts with animals are finally put to good use at the family’s fishery. Her plan is brilliant: Consolation Tuna will be the first humane tuna fishery on the planet. Greenpeace approves, fame and fortune follow, and Karen is swept on a global journey that explores how we live, what we eat, and how our lives can defy even our own wildest expectations.

 

Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer

Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer

Belinda Bauer is a phenomenal voice in British crime fiction, whose work has won the CWA’s Gold Dagger Award for Crime Novel of the Year and garnered rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Winner of the 2014 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, Rubbernecker is a gripping thriller about a medical student who begins to suspect that something strange is going on in this cadaver lab.

“The dead can’t speak to us,” Professor Madoc had said. But that was a lie. The body Patrick Fort is examining in anatomy class is trying to tell him all kinds of things. But no one hears what he does, and no one understand when he tries to tell them.

Life is already strange enough for Patrick — being a medical student with Asperger’s Syndrome doesn’t come without its challenges. And that’s before he is faced with solving a possible murder, especially when no one believes a crime has even taken place. Now he must stay out of danger long enough to unravel the mystery. But as Patrick learns one truth from a dead man, he discovers there have been many other lies closer to home.

A can’t-put-it-down page-turner from one of the finest voices in UK crime, Rubbernecker puts Belinda Bauer firmly on the map of world-class crime writers.

 

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Caitlin has Asperger’s. The world according to her is black and white; anything in between is confusing. Before, when things got confusing, Caitlin went to her older brother, Devon, for help. But Devon was killed in a school shooting, and Caitlin’s dad is so distraught that he is just not helpful. Caitlin wants everything to go back to the way things were, but she doesn’t know how to do that. Then she comes across the word closure — and she realizes this is what she needs. And in her search for it, Caitlin discovers that the world may not be so black and white after all.

 

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Imagine The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time… with a romance, and you have the beginnings of this story of a young man struggling with the world outside his head — and the woman who gets inside it. Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear — part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify — and he’s always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm’s mailroom in order to experience “the real world.” There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm.

 

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

In the near future, disease will be a condition of the past. Most genetic defects will be removed at birth; the remaining during infancy. Lou Arrendale, a high-functioning autistic adult, is a member of the lost generation, born at the wrong time to reap the rewards of medical science. He lives a low-key, independent life. But then he is offered a chance to try a brand-new experimental “cure” for his condition. With this treatment Lou would think and act and be just like everyone else. But if he was suddenly free of autism, would he still be himself? Would he still love the same classical music — with its complications and resolutions? Would he still see the same colors and patterns in the world — shades and hues that others cannot see? Most important, would he still love Marjory, a woman who may never be able to reciprocate his feelings? Now Lou must decide if he should submit to a surgery that might completely change the way he views the world… and the very essence of who he is.

Thoughtful, provocative, poignant, unforgettable, The Speed of Dark is a gripping journey into the mind of an autistic person as he struggles with profound questions of humanity and matters of the heart.

 

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The art of love is never a science. Meet Don Tillman, a brilliant yet socially challenged professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. And so, in the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a 16-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers.

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She also is strangely beguiling, fiery, and intelligent. And while Don quickly disqualifies her as a candidate for the Wife Project, as a DNA expert Don is particularly suited to help Rosie on her own quest: identifying her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on the Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie — and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you.

Arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, Graeme Simsion’s distinctive debut will resonate with anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of great challenges. The Rosie Project is a rare find: a book that restores our optimism in the power of human connection.

 

Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz

Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz

Solving crime, one facial expression at a time.

Colin Fischer cannot stand to be touched. He does not like the color blue. He needs index cards to recognize facial expressions.

But when a gun is found in the school cafeteria, interrupting a female classmate’s birthday celebration, Colin is the only for the investigation. It’s up to him to prove that Wayne Connelly, the school bully and Colin’s frequent tormenter, didn’t bring the gun to school. After all, Wayne didn’t have frosting on his hands, and there was white chocolate frosting found on the grip of the smoking gun…

Colin Fischer is a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, and his story — as told by the screenwriters of X-Men: First Class and Thor — is perfect for readers who have graduated from Encyclopedia Brown and who are ready to consider the greatest mystery of all: What other people are thinking and feeling.

 

M Is for Autism by The Students of Limpsfield Grange School and Vicky Martin

M is for Autism by Vicky Martin and The Students of Limpsfield Grange School

M. That’s what I’d like you to call me please. I’ll tell you why later. Welcome to M’s world. It’s tipsy-turvy, sweet and sour, and the beast of anxiety lurks outside classrooms ready to pounce. M just wants to be like other teenagers her age who always know what to say and what to do. So why does it feel like she lives on a different plane of existence to everyone else? Written by the students of Limpsfield Grange, a school for girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder with communication and interaction difficulties, M is for Autism draws on real life experiences to create a heartfelt and humorous novel that captures the highs and lows of being different in a world of normal.

 

Nonfiction

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

A story never before told and a memoir to help change our understanding of the world around us, 13-year-old Naoki Higashida’s astonishing, empathetic book takes us into the mind of a boy with severe autism. With an introduction by David Mitchell, author of the global phenomenon, Cloud Atlas, and translated by his wife, KA Yoshida.

Naoki Higashida was only a middle-schooler when he began to write The Reason I Jump. Autistic and with very low verbal fluency, Naoki used an alphabet grid to painstakingly spell out his answers to the questions he imagines others most often wonder about him: Why do you talk so loud? Is it true you hate being touched? Would you like to be normal? The result is an inspiring, attitude-transforming book that will be embraced by anyone interested in understanding their fellow human beings, and by parents, caregivers, teachers, and friends of autistic children. Naoki examines issues as diverse and complex as self-harm, perceptions of time and beauty, and the challenges of communication, and in doing so, discredits the popular belief that autistic people are anti-social loners who lack empathy.

This book is mesmerizing proof that inside an autistic body is a mind as subtle, curious, and caring as anyone else’s.

 

Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin

Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is a gifted animal scientist who has designed one third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the United States. She also lectures widely on autism — because Temple Grandin is autistic, a woman who thinks, feels, and experiences the world in ways that are incomprehensible to the rest of us.

In this unprecedented book, Grandin delivers a report from the country of autism. Writing from the dual perspectives of a scientist and an autistic person, she tells us how that country is experienced by its inhabitants and how she managed to breach its boundaries to function in the outside world. What emerges in Thinking in Pictures is the document of an extraordinary human being, one who, in gracefully and lucidly bridging the gulf between her condition and our own, sheds light on the riddle of our common identity.

 

In a Different Key by John Donvan and Caren Zucker

In a Different Key by John Donvan and Caren Zucker

An extraordinary narrative history of autism: the riveting story of parents fighting for their children’s civil rights; of doctors struggling to define autism; of ingenuity, self-advocacy, and profound social change.

Nearly 75 years ago, Donald Triplett of Forest, Mississippi, became the first child diagnosed with autism. Beginning with his family’s odyssey, In a Different Key tells the extraordinary story of this often misunderstood condition, and of the civil rights battles waged by the families of those who have it. Unfolding over decades, it is a beautifully rendered history of ordinary people determined to secure a place in the world for those with autism — by liberating children from dank institutions, campaigning for their right to go to school, challenging expert opinion on what it means to have autism, and persuading society to accept those who are different.

It is the story of women like Ruth Sullivan, who rebelled against a medical establishment that blamed cold and rejecting “refrigerator mothers” for causing autism; and of fathers who pushed scientists to dig harder for treatments. Many others played starring roles too: doctors like Leo Kanner, who pioneered our understanding of autism; lawyers like Tom Gilhool, who took the families’ battle for education to the courtroom; scientists who sparred over how to treat autism; and those with autism, like Temple Grandin, Alex Plank, and Ari Ne’eman, who explained their inner worlds and championed the philosophy of neurodiversity.

This is also a story of fierce controversies — from the question of whether there is truly an autism “epidemic,” and whether vaccines played a part in it; to scandals involving “facilitated communication,” one of many treatments that have proved to be blind alleys; to stark disagreements about whether scientists should pursue a cure for autism. There are dark turns too: we learn about experimenters feeding LSD to children with autism, or shocking them with electricity to change their behavior; and the authors reveal compelling evidence that Hans Asperger, discoverer of the syndrome named after him, participated in the Nazi program that consigned disabled children to death.

By turns intimate and panoramic, In a Different Key takes us on a journey from an era when families were shamed and children were condemned to institutions to one in which a cadre of people with autism push not simply for inclusion, but for a new understanding of autism: as difference rather than disability.

 

Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison

Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison

Ever since he was young, John Robison longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits — an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother, Augusten Burroughs, in them) — had earned him the label “social deviant.” It was not until he was 40 that he was diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. That understanding transformed the way he saw himself — and the world. A born storyteller, Robison has written a moving, darkly funny memoir about a life that has taken him from developing exploding guitars for KISS to building a family of his own. It’s a strange, sly, indelible account — sometimes alien yet always deeply human.

 

Carly’s Voice by Arthur Fleischmann and Carly Fleischmann

Carly's Voice by Arthur Fleischmann and Carly Fleischmann

In this international bestseller, father and advocate for Autism awareness Arthur Fleischmann blends his daughter Carly’s own words with his story of getting to know his remarkable daughter — after years of believing that she was unable to understand or communicate with him.

At the age of two, Carly Fleischmann was diagnosed with severe autism and an oral motor condition that prevented her from speaking. Doctors predicted that she would never intellectually develop beyond the abilities of a small child. Carly remained largely unreachable through the years. Then, at the age of 10, she had a breakthrough.

While working with her devoted therapists, Carly reached over to their laptop and typed “HELP TEETH HURT,” much to everyone’s astonishment. Although Carly still struggles with all the symptoms of autism, she now has regular, witty, and profound conversations on the computer with her family and her many thousands of supporters online.

One of the first books to explore firsthand the challenges of living with autism, Carly’s Voice brings readers inside a once-secret world in the company of an inspiring young woman who has found her voice and her mission.

 

NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman

NeuroTribes_Steve Silberman

A groundbreaking book that upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently.

What is autism? A lifelong disability, or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius? In truth, it is all of these things and more — and the future of our society depends on our understanding it. WIRED reporter Steve Silberman unearths the secret history of autism, long suppressed by the same clinicians who became famous for discovering it, and finds surprising answers to the crucial question of why the number of diagnoses has soared in recent years.

Going back to the earliest days of autism research and chronicling the brave and lonely journey of autistic people and their families through the decades, Silberman provides long-sought solutions to the autism puzzle, while mapping out a path for our society toward a more humane world in which people with learning differences and those who love them have access to the resources they need to live happier, healthier, more secure, and more meaningful lives.

Along the way, he reveals the untold story of Hans Asperger, the father of Asperger’s syndrome, whose “little professors” were targeted by the darkest social-engineering experiment in human history; exposes the covert campaign by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner to suppress knowledge of the autism spectrum for 50 years; and casts light on the growing movement of “neurodiversity” activists seeking respect, support, technological innovation, accommodations in the workplace and in education, and the right to self-determination for those with cognitive differences.

 

Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet

Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet

A journey into one of the most fascinating minds alive today — guided by the owner himself.

Bestselling author Daniel Tammet (Thinking in Numbers) is virtually unique among people who have severe autistic disorders in that he is capable of living a fully independent life and able to explain what is happening inside his head.

He sees numbers as shapes, colors, and textures, and he can perform extraordinary calculations in his head. He can learn to speak new languages fluently, from scratch, in a week. In 2004, he memorized and recited more than 22,000 digits of pi, setting a record. He has savant syndrome, an extremely rare condition that gives him the most unimaginable mental powers, much like those portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the film Rain Man.

Fascinating and inspiring, Born on a Blue Day explores what it’s like to be special and gives us an insight into what makes us all human — our minds.

 

The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch

The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch

The warm and hilarious bestselling memoir by a man diagnosed with Asperger syndrome who sets out to save his marriage.

At some point in nearly every marriage, a wife finds herself asking, What the @#!% is wrong with my husband?! In David Finch’s case, this turns out to be an apt question. Five years after he married Kristen, the love of his life, they learn that he has Asperger syndrome. The diagnosis explains David’s ever-growing list of quirks and compulsions, but it doesn’t make him any easier to live with.

Determined to change, David sets out to understand Asperger syndrome and learn to be a better husband with an endearing yet hilarious zeal. His methods for improving his marriage involve excessive note-taking, performance reviews, and most of all, the Journal of Best Practices: a collection of hundreds of maxims and hard-won epiphanies, including “Don’t change the radio station when she’s singing along” and “Apologies do not count when you shout them.” Over the course of two years, David transforms himself from the world’s most trying husband to the husband who tries the hardest. He becomes the husband he’d always meant to be.

Filled with humor and surprising wisdom, The Journal of Best Practices is a candid story of ruthless self-improvement, a unique window into living with an autism spectrum condition, and proof that a true heart can conquer all.

 

Songs of the Gorilla Nation by Dawn Prince-Hughes

Songs of the Gorilla Nation by Dawn Prince-Hughes

“This is a book about autism. Specifically, it is about my autism, which is both like and unlike other people’s autism. But just as much, it is a story about how I emerged from the darkness of it into the beauty of it.”

In this elegant and thought-provoking memoir, Dawn Prince-Hughes traces her personal growth from undiagnosed autism to the moment when, as a young woman, she entered the Seattle Zoo and immediately became fascinated with the gorillas.

Having suffered from a lifelong inability to relate to people in a meaningful way, Dawn was surprised to find herself irresistibly drawn to these great primates. By observing them and, later, working with them, she was finally able to emerge from her solitude and connect to living beings in a way she had never previously experienced.

Songs of the Gorilla Nation is more than a story of autism, it is a paean to all that is important in life. Dawn Prince-Hughes’s evocative story will undoubtedly have a lasting impact, forcing us, like the author herself, to rediscover and assess our own understanding of human emotion.

 

Life, Animated by Ron Suskind

Life Animated_Ron Suskind

What if you were trapped in a Disney movie? In all of them, actually — from Dumbo to Peter Pan to The Lion King — and had to learn about life and love mostly from what could be gleaned from animated characters, dancing across a screen of color? Asking this question opens a doorway to the most extraordinary of stories. It is the saga of Owen Suskind, who happens to be the son of one of America’s most noted writers, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Ron Suskind. He’s also autistic. The twisting, 20-year journey of this boy and his family will change that way you see autism, old Disney movies, and the power of imagination to heal a shattered, upside-down world.

 

Which of these books have you read? Let us know in the comments!

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