Bartlett Reads / Carrie / Reading Lists

Bartlett Reads 2013: Stories on the Spectrum

We are celebrating the inaugural Bartlett Reads community reading event by reading the New York Times bestselling book The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband by local author David Finch. This September, the community will come together to read the book, and attend events based on the themes in the book.

Many novels feature characters that have autism and Asperger Syndrome. Here are a few.

Tilt by Elizabeth Burns

As a successful young urbanite, Bridget Fox experiences the typical joys and struggles of youthful New Yorkers, and she has happy expectations for her new family. But when her daughter Maeve is diagnosed with autism, Bridget’s life as she knew it and her idealistic images of the perfect family are shattered. She tries to lean on her husband, her father, her best friend, but none can help her reconstruct her world as other tragic challenges begin to surface. But as she tries to choose between insanity and oblivion, Bridget discovers that matters are not nearly so simple–or so hopeless–as she once believed. Elizabeth Burns weaves the beauty and imagery of her poetic voice into a story of pain, humor, struggle and ultimate redemption. Bravely intimate, astonishing in its honesty, Tilt walks a path that most “normal” novels fear to tread as it follows the journey of a woman desperate enough to fall–and strong enough to survive.

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. Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically-gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor’s dog and uncovers secret information about his mother.

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning (“do no let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish. A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda, (aka “Demanda”) insists on selling their parents’ house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

“They tell me I’m lucky to have a son who’s so verbal, who is blisteringly intelligent, who can take apart the busted microwave and have it working again an hour later. They think there is no greater hell than having a son who is locked in his own world, unaware that there’s a wider one to explore. But try having a son who is locked in his own world, and still wants to make a connection. A son who tries to be like everyone else, but truly doesn’t know how.” Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject in his case, forensic analysis. He’s always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do and he’s usually right. But then one day his tutor is found dead, and the police come to question him. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger’s: not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches can look a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel. Suddenly, Jacob finds himself accused of murder. Emotionally powerful from beginning to end, “House Rules” looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way and fails those who don’t.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

Carrie

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