Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Not Even Wrong: A Father's Journey into the Lost History of Autism” as Want to Read:
Not Even Wrong: A Father's Journey into the Lost History of Autism
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Not Even Wrong: A Father's Journey into the Lost History of Autism

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  647 Ratings  ·  97 Reviews
In Not Even Wrong, Paul Collins melds a memoir of his son's autism with a journey into this realm of permanent outsiders. Examining forgotten geniuses and obscure medical archives, and beginning to see why he himself has spent a lifetime researching talented eccentrics, Collins shows how these stories are relevant and even necessary to shed light on autism.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 11th 2005 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2004)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Not Even Wrong, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Not Even Wrong

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Dec 04, 2013 Krom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ironically, this book provides for Autism what Autists themselves usually do not have - context. And by using historical explorations along with anecdotes relating to the author's own experience, I finally felt as if, for the first time, I was getting my head around this topic in a way that made sense.

I read this book almost a year after my daughter's diagnosis. For me, Autism has been one of the most bewildering things to try to learn about; each Autist is unique and the cause of the condition
It is going to be hard for me to provide a truly objective review of this book. The situations that Collins describes as he and his wife learn about autism and their autistic son are so familiar to me that it was almost (though not quite) like reading my own story. Things that others may find shocking or hard to understand seem like "just the way it is" to me.

(I had a similar problem with Temple Grandin's "Thinking in Pictures": people I recommended it to found it unnerving and didn't understan
Nov 30, 2016 Astraea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This is a copy of my review from

Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism was written by historian Paul Collins, the author of Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books. His son Morgan bounces around exuberantly playing verbal games with numbers and letters, banging on the piano, reading everything in sight, and interacting with his nanny and parents in his own way.

Morgan is certainly not a "stranger in the strange land of human emotions" as the official review claims (once again, the autis
Jun 02, 2013 Rand rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Collins draws upon a number of different unusual accounts in history (children raised by wolves, savants of all stripes, boffins, etc) to tell his own story of raising his son who was diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum at an early age.

Collins includes A LOT of information but at the same time glosses over certain parts of the memoir-ish stuff which were likely too difficult or tedious for him to share. If you want to know HOW exactly his son's behavioral therapists were able to do what th
Dec 04, 2013 Laney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laney by: Leah
Close to a five star for me for its excellent combination of history, psychology, neurology and real-world anecdotes. If you are interested in the history of autism spectrum disorders and its treatment, this book is an excellent overview and opens up some very interesting lines of thoughts, while not dipping into self-pity or martyrdom on the part of the right.

Particularly, I enjoyed the discussion on genetic occupations associated in families with autism, and the fact that it suggests that all
Erin Isgett
May 02, 2015 Erin Isgett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book written by the father of an autistic son. I love that he weaves the stories of other autistic people from the past and present into his own son's story. I recorded a few quotes that I just loved (to keep for my own memory), and I'll share them here as well:

"Everything is a phrase from somewhere: from TV, from computer games, from books, from songs. He collects broken bits of language like a magpie, gathering stray threads of conversation; and he arranges them into a nest, comforta
Not Even Wrong is not quite the book I thought it would be when I ordered it from the library. The story of Collins' son, Morgan, diagnosed as autistic just before his third birthday, the book is also the autobiography of Collins' adjustment to his son's condition, and his attempt (along with his wife) to work a path through the world for their family. There's much about this approach that I appreciated: Collins' realizes he probably places on the spectrum himself, albeit at an extremely high-fu ...more
Though I am often wary of "memoirs of autism" written by neurotypical adults, this book is an exception. Collins struggles to understand his child, not as someone who is "trapped" in a disorder, but simply someone who sees the world in a completely different and useful way. Though there are many social hinderances for people with autism, there are also many benefits, such as the ability to focus for hours on end at something you enjoy. This may be why autism is commonly linked with savants or ge ...more
Jul 17, 2009 Cristina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is written by the author of Sixpence House, a favorite book of my friend Laura (M) who loves Paul Collins and passed this book along to me. The book goes through the process of Paul Collins receiving a diagnosis of Autism for his young son. I really appreciated the honest insight from a parent who really didn't see it coming because it's a perspective that I really need to work to understand. Collins also offers some really interesting ideas on autism as a whole (one quote I wrote down ...more
Kate Thompson
Apr 10, 2012 Kate Thompson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was really moved by this and keep thinking about the way the author slowly unfolded the narrative. There is very little internal from the author (the father) - he sets up scenes with his son and lets us witness the trials and triumphs of learning about his child. You realize along the way that he himself is definitely on the autism spectrum, and it makes you appreciate the way that parents have a special understanding of their progeny. The compassion and acceptance both parents show to their s ...more
Sep 17, 2011 Nichola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: differences
An Interesting book, almost two books interspersed, like shuffling a deck of cards, bringing them together by allowing the reader to make their own connections between his historical research and the day-to-day life of the author and his young son. This book had me hopping back and forth to the computer to check on the lives of the personalilties/eccentrics he was talking about. There must be so many more stories out there.
The only thing lacking seemed to be his emotional response to his real li
Dec 04, 2013 Thais rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul Collins ci parla del suo bambino Morgan, che a neppure tre anni sa leggere, contare, ha una memoria straordinaria ed è intelligentissimo. Ma è anche autistico, e non reagisce agli stimoli esterni, non sa chiedere ciò che vuole, non si rende conto che gli altri non possono leggergli nel pensiero. Collins descrive episodi della loro vita quotidiana con affetto e dolcezza, intervallandoli a vari excursus nel mondo dell'autismo. Da Peter il Ragazzo Selvaggio agli ingegneri della Microsoft, il m ...more
Jul 17, 2011 Edward is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I just got this book, after hearing a fascinating discussion among Paul Collins, Jennifer Elder, his wife, and Krista Tippit on NPR this morning.

I look forward to reading it, because Paul and Jennifer seem to have a unique approach, seeing the continuum of autism, and even the empirical advantages of being able to see the world through the eyes of an autistic person, in this case their son.

As a historian, I also appreciate the historical dimensions of both Paul's book and also Jennifer's youth-
Paul Collins is quickly becoming one of my favorite newly-discovered authors. After reading his wonderfully funny Sixpence House, I knew I needed to try something else. This one starts where Sixpence House left off, when his family has moved back to the US and at the age of about three, his son Morgan is given an autistic spectrum diagnosis. Having worked with autistic and other special-needs kids at a previous job, many of the behaviors he described were very familiar to me, though I never work ...more
May 13, 2013 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We received our son's autism diagnosis a few months before I began reading Not Even Wrong. Having read (and loved) Collins' earlier works, I was eager to read it, and wasn't disappointed once I started.

He manages to capture, so eloquently and subtly, the experience of coming to grips with the autism diagnosis in his own son, Morgan, while simultaneously telling the intriguing stories of historical figures who may also have had autism.

I would recommend this book to any parent who is starting the
Amy Alstrum
Nov 19, 2013 Amy Alstrum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I spent a good portion of my adult life working with individuals on the autism spectrum, many of whom were nonverbal or had limited verbal capabilities. I was there to watch the evolution of their verbal language, which was nothing short of beautiful. Many parts of this book take me back to the wonder I felt watching my clients connect the dots to verbal communication.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 01, 2011 Contessa marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
It's always interesting to read how ASD effects different families. I have thought about writing one about the wonderful adventures I've had with my son, now 21. I'll let you know my thoughts once I finish.
Jennifer Stock
Aug 16, 2012 Jennifer Stock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Great help in understanding autism from a parents perspective. Very well written
Feb 03, 2015 Ms.pegasus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone whose first thought about autism is the rock opera "Tommy" or the film "Rain Man."
The cover art of NOT EVEN WRONG (the edition I read has a longer subtitle: A Father's Journey into the Lost History of Autism) depicts a collage of objects significant to Collins' son Morgan and the diversions the author encounters during his research. In a way, it is a reflection of autism itself: A collage of symptoms and behaviors. Morgan (Paul's son) is described as an “autist,” not “autistic.” The behaviors that unfold are a part of who he is, not just a trail of descriptors. We see an inqu ...more
Jonathan Karmel
This is a bunch of very loosely organized vignettes about various characters, past and present, who may or may not be autistic, interwoven with the author's experience raising his own son. We learn about Peter the Wild Boy, who was said to have lived for a period of time in the Black Forest in Hanover during the time of the English King George I. He was apparently able to survive in the woods foraging wild plants and fruit but could not speak. He hobnobbed with royalty and other notable men of a ...more
Ellis Amdur
Jan 11, 2015 Ellis Amdur rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ranges from stories of “The Wild Child” to the techs at Microsoft, who turn on a video feed on their laptops to watch the speech of the man in the auditorium speaking in front of them. It may be that human genius would be impossible without autism – Isaac Newton, for example, was almost certainly autistic. Collins conveys the world of the autistic with profound empathy – and this, sometimes, is even more powerful than a first person account, because he can convey what he knows in translation. Mo ...more
Mar 01, 2008 Douglas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in knowing more about autism
Recommended to Douglas by: Gypsy Bates
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erika Barrington
Aug 10, 2010 Erika Barrington rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crucial
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie Akeman
Mar 21, 2016 Julie Akeman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book!! But autistics are not all about numbers and strict logic. I learned to read at a young age and I build worlds in my mind. I have r's ead a lot of fantasy books and can probably write my own but will need an editor to work closely with me. I love the affirmation that autistic children, and the adults they grow into are a world of their own. One worthy to explore if you are willing to jump in. I do want to say one thing. I didn't like how the adults trying to help ie teachers and ...more
Jul 16, 2014 Kaethe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autism, nonfiction
Highly recommended to anyone interested in autism. Mom NOS is also a fan.

Reading the memoirs of parents who's children have autism, one of the things you notice is the broad spectrum of reactions. For a lot of parents, like Collins, there is an acceptance that "this" is how this child is. It may be very different from other children, or not. But for a given child, "this" is normal. Other parents seem to view their child's behavior as apart from the child himself, so that "this" isn't the child b
Nov 01, 2008 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very fast read for the depth of content. I am SO glad I read this! Not only does the author discuss his experiences with his own son's diagnosis of autism, he discusses a large variety of historical examples of individuals with non-standard behavior. And you are left to ponder "What's the difference between genius and insanity?" and "What should be defined as normal and abnormal?". At first I was shocked at the idea of a bunch of autists working for, and living at, Microsoft. Then I had to sit w ...more
Jennifer Nowak
Jul 27, 2014 Jennifer Nowak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book for anyone who has a child on the
autism spectrum. Paul Collins writes in very open and and honest way about his feelings upon learning that his son had autism and the difficulty in communicating with his child

Collin's look into the history of autism was also very interesting and informative. It left the reader with many ideas to reflect on long after finishing the book.

The one thing this book is NOT, is a boring textbook look at autists throughout history. Instead it is a c
Paolo Gianoglio
Jan 22, 2013 Paolo Gianoglio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Colpisce la modestia e la serenità con cui Collins parla del figlio autistico. Non diventa giudice, non gioca il ruolo del super esperto, ma al tempo stesso non è rassegnato. E' un padre che cerca il meglio per il proprio figlio, e lo fa con molta umiltà cercando la strada migliore, documentandosi e studiando, ma ricordandosi che l'autismo non può essere ricondotto alle consuete categorie con cui noi "normali" osserviamo il mondo. E' appunto questo il senso del titolo, a significare che da oggi ...more
May 27, 2012 Becca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I wasn't sure what to expect, but I'm very glad I read this book.

I'm not sure that anyone who hasn't went through such a situation can fully understand what it's like to hear that there is something different about your child - even if you already know it yourself. The author did a very good job of putting into words those feelings that parents of such children go through during the period of time initially following a diagnosis.

I loved the back-and-forth between the author's research and travel
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Especially looking for readers with personal experience. 3 8 Apr 23, 2011 05:45PM  
  • Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism
  • Reasonable People
  • Send in the Idiots: Stories from the Other Side of Autism
  • Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism
  • George and Sam
  • Elijah's Cup: A Family's Journey into the Community and Culture of High-functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome (Revised edition)
  • Atypical: Life with Asperger's in 20 1/3 Chapters
  • Pretending to Be Normal: Living with Asperger's Syndrome
  • How Can I Talk If My Lips Don't Move: Inside My Autistic Mind
  • Nobody Nowhere: The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic
  • Emergence: Labeled Autistic
  • Boy Alone: A Brother's Memoir
  • Freaks, Geeks and Aspergers Syndrome: A User Guide to Adolescence
  • There's a Boy in Here: Emerging from the Bonds of Autism
  • Asperger's From the Inside Out: A Supportive and Practical Guide for Anyone with Asperger's Syndrome
  • Let Me Hear Your Voice: A Family's Triumph over Autism
  • Asperger's on the Job: Must-have Advice for People with Asperger's or High Functioning Autism, and their Employers, Educators, and Advocates
  • The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome
Paul Collins is a writer specializing in history, memoir, and unusual antiquarian literature. His nine books have been translated into eleven languages, and include Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books (2003) and The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars (2011).

A frequent contributor to the "Histories" column of New Scientist magazine,
More about Paul Collins...

Share This Book

“Think of it: a disability is usually defined in terms of what is missing. … But autism … is as much about what is abundant as what is missing, an over-expression of the very traits that make our species unique.” 61 likes
More quotes…