Further Reading

Novels Featuring Characters with Autistic Syndrome Disorders

A Wild Ride Up the Cupboards
Ann Bauer
When their three-year-old son, Edward, suddenly stops speaking, Jack and Rachel begin a frustrating series of visits to doctors with few answers. Desperate to understand what is happening, they trace the medical histories of their families and uncover difficult truths. Edward makes progress, but his parents' struggle is the center of this novel.

Melina Gerosa Bellows
Bella has all the usual problems of a single girl in the city, but her cluelessness about romance is nothing beside her helplessness in the face of her twin brother's autism. Yet it's when she takes his cue on how to cope that Bella finally comes into her own. This funny, moving novel will appeal to fans both of Bridget Jones and of more serious family drama.

Death of a Thousand Cuts
Barbara D'Amato
While Chicago suffers under the heat wave of 1995, the mutilated body of a celebrated physician is found during a reunion of staff and patients of a residential home for autistic children. The ex-patients prove enigmatic suspects for the homicide detectives in this compelling mystery foray into the implacable world of autism.

Banishing Verona
Margot Livesey
Two unlikely characters meet in unlikely circumstances: London house painter Zeke has Asperger's Syndrome, which affects his ability to process normal social clues; but when pregnant Verona knocks on the door, they both sense an immediate connection. A refreshingly different and indescribably involving take on the classic love story.

A Road Through the Mountains
Elizabeth McGregor
Shocked to hear that his former lover, Anna, is in a coma after a car accident, David reels from the news that her ten-year-old daughter, a child with Asperger's Syndrome, is his own. The fragile bonds of love must bridge the distances between these isolated characters.

The Speed of Dark
Elizabeth Moon
Lou Arrendal has fashioned a nice life for himself, despite facing the challenges of autism. But when he is offered a chance at an experimental cure, Lou considers the possibility that losing the disease may also cause him to lose a part of who he is. This novel is beautifully written, with empathy and without a trace of sentiment.

Novels from Unusual Viewpoints: Characters with Other Mental or Physical Challenges

Specimen Days
Michael Cunningham
Cunningham's complex, beautiful work of fiction follows three recurring characters through the centuries-in Industrial Era Manhattan, post-9/11 New York, and a distant future. The first section is told from the point of view of a gentle, damaged boy only able to speak through the words of Walt Whitman's ecstatic poem, Leaves of Grass.

The Caveman's Valentine
George Dawes Green
Romulus Ledbetter was once a brilliant music student and family man; now he's living in a cave in a New York City park and struggling against the voices and delusions of his mental illness. Despite them and the doubts of his daughter and the cops, he sets out to solve the murder of another homeless man.

The Confessions of Max Tivoli
Andrew Sean Greer
Imagine what it would be like to be born with the body of an old person who, with each passing year, looks younger and younger. That is the fate of Max Tivoli, whose thoughts and feelings never match his apparent age. When he falls in love, the complications of his situation make for a heartbreaking story.

How Late It Was, How Late
James Kelman
After a drunken spree and a police beating, a small-time Glasgow ex-con and drifter wakes up unable to see. It never occurs to him to ask for help. Instead, he struggles courageously to cope with the suddenly insurmountable difficulties of everyday life. This novel, written in a thick, obscenity-laced Glaswegian accent, is a triumph of characterization and a winner of the Booker Prize.

Flowers for Algernon
Daniel Keyes
This classic science fiction story is told by Charlie, a man with an IQ of 68. An experimental brain operation is performed to increase his intelligence. His journal records the change as he eventually surpasses the scientists who have altered him-and as he faces the tragic certainty that the improvement is only temporary.

The Ha-Ha
Dave King
Since Howard Kapostash returned from Vietnam with a brain injury, he is unable to speak or write. Over the years, he has created a stable, if circumscribed, life for himself, but that's all changed by the appearance of an old flame and her son. This fine debut is distinguished by Howard's observant, unsentimental interior "voice" directly describing his experiences.

Every Good Boy Does Fine
Tim Laskowski
A severe head injury at age twenty-three left Robert Nyquist wheelchair-bound and cognitively impaired. Though a decade has passed, Robert still feels twenty-three. The restrictions, humiliations, and fears he faces daily give the reader insight into a life requiring unfathomable bravery. This is a restrained but incredibly moving debut.

Motherless Brooklyn
Jonathan Lethem
In a tour de force of linguistic experiment, Lethem re-imagines the noir novel with an unforgettable narrator. Lionel Essrog, an orphan with Tourette's syndrome, was once recruited by minor hoodlum Frank Minna. Now, as an adult, he's investigating Minna's murder.

The Pleasure of My Company
Steve Martin
Actor, comedian, and author Steve Martin doesn't waste a word in this novella, the thoughtful and lightly comedic tale of Daniel, a man struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder. When Daniel is unexpectedly called on to rescue his social worker from domestic trouble, he begins to find his way out of the trap his disorder has created for him.

Novels from Unusual Viewpoints: More Brilliant Kids

Isaac and His Devils
Fernanda Eberstadt
Sam Hooker dreamed of an academic career, but his small-town, working-class upbringing and his ruthlessly practical wife give his life another path. Then his son, Isaac, begins to grow up-bumbling, nearsighted, oversized-and a genius. Can Isaac escape his father's limits? Eberstadt's characters, especially the insatiably curious Isaac, come vividly to life in this appealing, sometimes startling family story.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Jonathan Safran Foer
Oskar Schell is a precocious nine-year-old who is struggling, with all the powers of his inventive brain, to understand his father's death on 9/11. He begins a feverish quest through New York for the lock that matches a key his father left behind, certain it will unlock the mystery. This dazzling, tragicomic novel of a grieving son is as unique and imaginative as Oskar himself.

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax
Liz Jensen
Nine-year-old Louis Drax lies in a coma after a terrible fall. His mother has accused her now missing husband of the crime. What really happened? The novel is narrated alternately by Louis, within his coma, and by his doctor. As their stories slowly converge, the truth emerges. Louis's lively, original voice will capture the reader's imagination.

The Last Days of Summer
Steve Kluger
On the eve of World War II, Joey Margolis writes to the Giants' new third baseman, Charlie Banks, claiming that he's dying, hoping to get Charlie to hit one out of the park for him. Charlie doesn't fall for it. It's the beginning of an unusual friendship in this very funny and poignant novel.

The Every Boy
Dana Adam Shapiro
This quirky, memorable coming-of-age tale echoes the work of J.D. Salinger. Abandoned by his mother, Henry Every is left with a father fixated on jellyfish and a female best friend obsessed with psychoanalysis. Excerpts from Henry's journal capture his unique voice and his odd but strangely happy life.

Sherlock Holmes

The Hound of the Baskervilles
Arthur Conan Doyle
Christopher's favorite book has the famous detective solving the mystery of a man haunted by a family curse-a hellhound of the English moors.

The Annotated Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Conan Doyle
This two-volume collection of the Sherlock Holmes stories is lavishly annotated with historical and literary notes to enrich the reader's experience of the classic tales.