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Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's (2007)

by John Elder Robison

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,5911154,405 (3.74)85
John Robison longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits had earned him the label "social deviant." No guidance came from his mother, who conversed with light fixtures, or his father, who spent evenings drunk. No wonder he gravitated to machines, which could be counted on. His savant-like ability to visualize electronic circuits landed him a gig with KISS, for whom he created their legendary fire-breathing guitars. Later, he drifted into a "real" job, as an engineer for a major toy company. But the higher Robison rose, the more he had to pretend to be "normal" and do what he simply couldn't: communicate. It was not until he was forty that an insightful therapist told him he had the form of autism called Asperger's syndrome. That understanding transformed the way Robison saw himself--and the world.--From publisher description.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 112 (next | show all)
This book, which I read for a first year psychology seminar, was very interesting, funny, and highly worthwhile. Robison's voice is strong, and the way he tells his own story is relate-able, striking when you realize that his very story comes from fundamental differences from those around him. ( )
  et.carole | Jan 21, 2022 |
It was really interesting to see the world from this POV. There were subtleties there that just a book ABOUT Aspergers would not show you. Plus, he has led such an interesting and varied life. A good, though-provoking book. ( )
  Monj | Jan 7, 2022 |
John Elder Robison tells the story of his life as a person with Asperger's and how he felt socially inept and did not fit in, thus the title "Look me in the eye".
He came from a dysfunctional family. His father was an alcoholic and beat him and his brother and his mother was mentally ill.
John found his niche in electronics and worked building circuits and special effects for the band Kiss among others. After several years of that he decided he needed a "real job" and used his electronic abilities to get another job. He married his high school sweetheart and became a father. It wasn't until in his forties, when he learned he had Asperger's that felt he fit into the world. ( )
  dara85 | Oct 13, 2021 |
Explains the issues that he had to overcome to survive. Considering his family with a Dad that drank but yet held a college job and a mother with mental issues, he learned a lot being with adults. ( )
  kshydog | Dec 13, 2020 |
Written by the brother of Augusten Burroughs, who wrote Running with Scissors, Look Me in the Eye tells about growing up in a dysfunctional family- his mother had mental illness and his father was an alcoholic. As a young kid, John Elder wanted to play with other children but didn't know how- his odd way of talking earned him labels of being weird and difficult, and for his inability to make eye contact he was called "shifty" and "up to no good". He more or less got pigeonholed as a bad kid. This was in the sixties, Asperger's wasn't a known diagnosis back then.

Actually, I found a lot of the book kind of hard to get through at first, because I was expecting to read about what it's like to live with Asperger's, and instead I was reading about all these crazy incidents as John Elder dropped out of school, left home and started travelling with bands- he had a genius for designing things with electronics and made special effects with sound, lights and smoke bombs for several different bands including Pink Floyd and Kiss. Hard to put down, but also really far from my usual reading interests! The author was really good at what he did, and enjoyed the creativity, but had difficulty handling the close personal interactions living in close quarters with the road crew on tour. Eventually he left that scene and started working for Mattel, making the first electronic toys that used motion and sound. That was also a creative environment and it's fascinating to read how he and the other electronic engineers came up with solutions to problems, within tight constraints. But promotions placed him in positions where he was managing a team, not doing the creative work himself, which he didn't like. So he left that line of work and started his own business rebuilding specialty cars- had interest in vehicles, fixing and rebuilding engines from a young age. That is still operational.

It was only in his forties that a close friend showed the author a book which described Asperger's symptoms, and he realized for the first time why he was different from other people. He relates how reading Born on a Blue Day and books by Temple Grandin helped him recognize and understand himself. I found the last part of the memoir more interesting, where the author describes his thought process, looks back on his childhood with new comprehension, talks with his estranged parents about certain things, relates how he parented his own son (who isn't on the autism spectrum but has some of the traits) and tells how he is continually working on social skills and "emotional intelligence" but that has changed his ability to do the amazingly creative electronics work that highlighted his youth. In fact, he looks back on designs he made when he did sound effects for bands, and says he could think those things up nowadays, but not execute them, because he's a different person now and has lost that laser focus on one area of expertise. He's happy with it though. Fascinating. I wasn't sure at first, but I think this one's staying on my shelf.

from the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | Jul 12, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 112 (next | show all)
Since learning about Asperger's, I have read just about every personal account I can find with regard to Asperger's. While I found all of them interesting, I can't think of one that I would have called warm or engaging - until I read John Elder Robison's memoir Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger's. ...Mr. Robison tells a story that is at once heartbreaking, inspiring and funny....Mr. Robison's life is a testament to the fact that a life with Asperger's can be as rich as anyone else's - despite the challenges.

 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Elder Robisonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burroughs, AugustenForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Deakins, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my brother, who encouraged me to write the story, and most especially for Unit Two and Cubby
For my brother, who encouraged me to write the story, and my family, who supported me while I did so
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"Look me in the eye, young man!"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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John Robison longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits had earned him the label "social deviant." No guidance came from his mother, who conversed with light fixtures, or his father, who spent evenings drunk. No wonder he gravitated to machines, which could be counted on. His savant-like ability to visualize electronic circuits landed him a gig with KISS, for whom he created their legendary fire-breathing guitars. Later, he drifted into a "real" job, as an engineer for a major toy company. But the higher Robison rose, the more he had to pretend to be "normal" and do what he simply couldn't: communicate. It was not until he was forty that an insightful therapist told him he had the form of autism called Asperger's syndrome. That understanding transformed the way Robison saw himself--and the world.--From publisher description.

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Book description
John Robison recounts his struggles to fit in and communicate with others as he grew up, describing why he had so many problems relating to others and why he often turned to machines for comfort, rather than people, and explains how his life was changed when he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at age forty.
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