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The Selected Works Of T.S. Spivet

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  6,085 ratings  ·  1,406 reviews
T.S. Spivet is a 12-year-old genius mapmaker who lives on a ranch in Montana. His father is a silent cowboy and his mother is a scientist who for the last twenty years has been looking for a mythical species of beetle. His brother has gone, his sister seems normal but might not be, and his dog – Verywell – is going mad.

It’s odd, but then families are. T.S. makes sense of i
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Paperback, 374 pages
Published 2009 by Harvill Secker
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Jerry I bought a copy for my middle school library because of a review I read somewhere that said it was a well-written story about a 12-year-old kid…moreI bought a copy for my middle school library because of a review I read somewhere that said it was a well-written story about a 12-year-old kid genius. Thankfully, I read the whole book myself before cataloging it for my campus. In my opinion, it really isn't suited for a middle grade audience.
There is not a lot of swearing in it, overall, but when you do get to it, the author holds nothing back: f-bombs galore in brief passages. Definitely more for adults or "advanced" high school students. I don't think this is a book middle-schoolers would keep reading even if you could get them to start it. The plot development c-r-a-w-l-s in the beginning, even though the writing is poetic and amazing. The sidebar details, illustrations, notes, etc. are at times integral to the story, and at others, merely filler, so after awhile, young readers might lose interest in them and miss some important background information. As a middle-aged adult reader of ALL kinds of books, my biggest difficulty was with the small font of the actual story printed on sepia-tone pages, along with the smaller writing and drawings in the margins; my old eyes just weren't ready to squint that much. The first 2/3 of the book is almost exhausting in detail and beautiful prose, then suddenly the action picks up speed and the overall tone of the story becomes more light and humor-filled. And the ending just snuck up on me, but was fitting.

Will there be further adventures for T.S. Spivet? Here's hoping. A difficult book to categorize, but generally VERY well-written. I look forward to more from this author.(less)
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Community Reviews

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James
I first found Mr. T.S. Spivet, geographer-savant, while browsing an airport bookstore. Secretly, I was hoping to find something I could download to my Sony eReader, but found myself hopelessly bound to the hardback copy of Larsen's debut novel due to its ingenious inclusion of hundreds of sketches taken from the protagonist's notebooks and journals. Upon reading, I became enraptured at once by the language, the setting, and the powerful characters. By page 103, I knew I had found a new favorite ...more
Amanda
There are some books that touch me more than others, some characters that I love to love and love to hate.

But nothing and no one has made my heart ache the way this book has. In this book, Reif Larsen has created a story so beautiful in its simplicity and at the same time, filled with layers and layers of complexity. This book reminds me of ancient artifacts, items handled with loving care through time, to be held in your hands with reverence and wonder that something can last so long and be so
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Peter
I started this book ravenously--Science! Youth! Grief!--then I lost momentum. Then I fell into it again--Adventure! Bloodshed! Secret Societies!--then I became cynical about it. (One character says, “Grief, youth, science… People are so goddamn predictable. I should write a book about how to suckerpunch people into caring.”) When I finally finished it, I put it down with a fair respect for both its accomplishments and its shortcomings.

Here’s the hook: 12-year-old cartographer genius Tecumseh Spa
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Tim
This book has great shelf appeal. It's got a gazillion illustrations ostensibly by our first-person narrator, a 12-year-old cartographer and technical illustrator from Montana—in bygone days he would be a naturalist—living with an entomologist mom, a bronco-busting dad, a sister older than her years, and the memory of a dead brother. The prose reveals a quirky character and rewards slow going.

But here's the problem: I'm only a couple dozen pages in and there are mistakes. It could be the problem
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Paul Bryant
You might think that novel readers would be pretty immune to the scourge of looksism (if you haven’t got the looks you ism worth my time) which saturates the rest of the entertainment biz. There is the lure of the pretty cover, of course – who doesn’t want to be seen in public with this on your arm



Rather than this



But we aren’t like 14, we have better reasons when we choose our novels than just the sexy covers, don’t we? Yeah, sure we do. We’ve half-read a review somewhere or somebody mentioned
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Jacob
When the Smithsonian decides to award genius cartographer T. S. Spivet the presitigious but little-known Baird Award, they are completely unaware that young T. S.--short for Tecumseh Sparrow--is actually a twelve-year-old prodigy addicted to mapping everything, from family dinner conversations to Loneliness on the streets of Chicago. The Smithsonian also doesn't know that T. S. has no way of getting to Washington, D.C. from his family's Montana ranch, but that doesn't stop him from hopping a tra ...more
Margaret
What a charming idea: Brilliant 12-year old boy "maps" his way through life, with the book including many of these maps and other illustrations in the margin. In theory, a Tom Sawyer-esque tail of adventurous travel from Montana to Washington, D.C.

Well, in reality, not so charming, not so entertaining, something of a slog, and as the illustrations most often come with writing, really a novel with footnotes. One needs to be careful with these... If the writer is to drag the reader away from the s
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Danica
Well, what do you know. After a string of bedazzling reads (Crowley, Dunnett, and Murray), my disillusionment with contemporary lit continues apace.

A twelve year old genius cartographer with a quirky and symbolic name has blah blah adventures on a train en route to picking up a prize at the Smithsonian which he is too young to have honestly qualified for (meaning: misinformation was entered on the official application form. mothers were mislead. important people were lied to!) and for which he h
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Sibyl
The story of a 12 year-old making his way from Montana to D.C. to accept an award? Not the usual fiction on my reading list. Yet reading Reif Larsen's first novel had me engaged from beginning to end. I may have been pursuaded about the value of his work after listening to his interview with Diane Riehm (www.wamu.org). But really, I appreciate the introduction to new authors and am drawn to first works. T. S. Spivet as brought to life by Reif Larsen was not a disappointment. I do not see how thi ...more
Jasmine
I have been bored out of my mind for the last week.

Weirdly the thing that I remember most from my 9 years of playing the clarinet is what Mr. Granholm told me about the end of a concert. It people clap immediately after a song ends that is a terrible sign. It means that they were waiting for the song to end. (Think clapping between movements). you want them to wait because they are so into the music that they are shocked that it has ended. Well I was waiting for this book to end basically from
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Martin
The illustrations in the margins are ingenious, yes, and I don't believe I've ever held a prettier book in my hands. From the cover, the drawings, the colors, it's amazing.

And now to the hard part.

I feel like this book had a lot of potential. It started off amazingly, it picked up great momentum once our hero got on the train.... and then it wasted 1/3 of the book a side-story of Emma and her life, which I thought was completely unnecessary and had no place in the book. If the pages of this sto
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Cynthia
The first half of this book is some of the best fiction i've EVER read. The characters are interesting and believable but quirky, the setting is beautiful, the situation they're in is moving. There are these luscious rich maps and drawings and sidebars that you read with loving tenderness and joy, and that really move the plot along.
And then halfway through the whole thing just turns into drivel. The main character's personality disappears and you begin to feel like you're reading the author's
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Jonathan
I can only hope that when Reif Larsen writes his second novel that it can compete with this one. The plot is simple: A 12 year old map making genius wins a prestigious award from the Smithsonian, and runs away from his home in Montana in order to travel across the country and claim it. The adventures of T.S. Spivet as he navigates his way both in a physical sense from Montana to Washington D.C., and in a mental sense through his interactions with mystifying adults as well as with his own bizarre ...more
Jamie
Perhaps among my favorite books read in the past, oh, five years – and that’s saying a lot, as I’ve read some jim dandies. The fact is, I think I would have enjoyed this book even without the maps – they are just an added bonus. My favorites, for pure laughter-inducing purposes:

Page 16: Father Drinks Whiskey With a Sensational Degree of Regularity
Page 107: Down on Your Luck? Ride the Rails!
Page 290: Recipe for Gracie’s Wintertime Special
Page 338: FTUFMBEF Map #4: Clara and Jamie’s First Day at t
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N.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anne
Here we have one of the most unique and extraordinary debut novels I have ever come across, the author Reif Larsens is a 27 year old American and this novel caused one of the biggest bidding wars by publishers in history - resulting in a 1m price tag for the publishers.

First let take a look at the actual book itself. Mine is a proof copy, so not quite the finished article but it's going to be one of those eye-catchers that will jump from the bookshop shelves at people. The book is wider than the
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Raina
T.S. is a prodigy of cartography. He is only twelve years old, and he sees his whole world through the lens of mapping. He creates maps of movement, sociological phenomena, all of the possible moves from the starting position in Cat's Cradle... The possibilities are literally endless. All of his maps feature technical drawings so precise and aesthetically pleasing that he regularly publishes his maps in magazines like Smithsonian and Science.

He does all this from a ranch in Montana. His dad is
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Lauren
Five stars because this was one of the most unique books I have ever come across... the story itself is a first-person narrative by T.S. Spivet (Tecumseh Sparrow, the first name passed down four generations), a 12-year-old cartographer and illustrator. The story begins just before T.S. receives a phone call from the Smithsonian that he has been awarded the very prestigious Baird fellowship as "America's Illustrator", in residence at the Smithsonian. Being 12-years old, and too ashamed to mention ...more
Ori
I was really excited to see this in the basement of the Brookline Booksmith for just $5. I'd seen it a few months earlier and knew the general story/hype (it's not often that an author gets a 6, let alone 7 figure deal for a book, particularly a first book).

I bought it toward the end of February and read the first 35 pages in a white-heat, captivated by the precocious narrator and his amazing "maps," both of the land, and of the habits of his family member. I particularly loved "Father Drinks Wh
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Andy
It's true, there's very little else like this. An oversize, square hulk of a book chronicling the cross country journey of TS Spivet as he heads to the Smithsonian to collect a scientific award. All at the tender age of 12.

His insights into the oddities of everyday life and adulthood are punctuated, diverted and embellished by an ongoing collection of maps, technical diagrams, footnotes, and sketches on almost every page that are a joy to behold.

It's the novel equivalent of a low-fi indie come
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Jane Snyder


I would give the first section of this book 5 stars; I loved the story of T.S. and his family. But once T.S.'s train ride began, I was annoyed at the suddenly strange fantasy of the continuing tale. We were taken from a sensitive, smart and humorous story about T.S.'s dysfunctional family, about whom I REALLY cared, to a science fiction-like ride across the country that often made no sense to me. I also had no interest in Emma, and think in retrospect the title should be The Selected Works of T
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TheBookSmugglers
Original review posted on The Book Smugglers:

Tecumseh Sparrow (T.S.) Spivet is the narrator of this story, the unlikely prodigy child of a Montana rancher (the father) and a brilliant yet failed scientist (the mother). At 12, he is already a budding scientist interested in anatomy and entomology (just to name a couple) and an accomplished mapmaker. It is the latter that end up helping him to be granted an award from the Smithsonian Institution . The story opens with the phone call from another
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Karel-Willem Delrue
De wereld in kaart gebracht

Hebt u ooit het gevoel dat u de hele inhoud van het universum allang ergens in uw hoofd heeft zitten, alsof u bent geboren met een volledige kaart van de wereld, die al in de plooien van uw cerebellum geëtst staat, en dat u uw hele leven alleen maar bezig bent te ontdekken hoe u bij die kaart kunt komen?

Je moet het maar doen. Als dertiger debuteren met een succesboek dat door Jean-Pierre Jeunet wordt verfilmd! Reif Larsen doorbreekt in De verzamelde werken van T.S. Spi
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Valrae
I heard an interview with the author of this book and so when I saw it at Costco, I couldn't resist. It was an interesting book, very different from what I would usually read. It is about a very dysfunctional family that is seen from a 12 year old boy's point of view. The fact that he is genius is beside the point. How he sees them at the beginning and at the end of the story is the story for me. Of course this isn't how the book is described, but how I saw it. I'm sure some will see it as a boy ...more
Alyssia Cooke
This was a book that intrigued me when I saw it in Waterstones, although had it not been on a buy 3 for 2 deal I probably wouldn't have spent the RRP price of 12.99. I think it intrigued me because it seemed like a more adult version of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time', which I had enjoyed. Although the main character does not seem to be autistic, he makes sense of life in a similar way, but instead of using numbers it's drawing maps. Plus, the front cover of the book is amazi ...more
Alison
T.S. Spivet, an obsessive and nerdy 12-year-old cartographer who maps everything in his life and is too mature in the way of really smart kids, somehow manages to flatly and critically describe his surroundings and his family members, even while, almost as if he is unaware of it, he conveys an striking amount of compassion and love for his family. It's that subtle emotion - that humanity - that gives this book its charm, even as T.S. heads out on an inexplicable adventure that left me baffled as ...more
Aaron
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rachel
I had great expectations for this book, which perhaps tainted my opinion when it failed to live up to them. The illustrations are incredible - detailed, humorous, witty, charming. But throughout the novel I kept thinking that without the visuals there is little that sets the narrative apart.

As much as I wanted to like the main character, his precocious adolescent personality seemed like a poor immitation of the marvelous protagonist Nick Twisp from "Youth in Revolt" or of Blue van Meer from "Sp
...more
Dario
Ako žudite za dinamičnom radnjom; nevjerojatno bogatim svijetom likova, pojava, događaja; detaljiziranim pejsažima - ova knjiga nije za vas. Ako ste poklonik čudnovatosti - bogami, jest. Naime T. V. Spivet nije običan dječak. Radnja se ionako odvija u očima dvanaestogodišnjaka. Koji se zove T. V. Spivet. Inovativno, zar ne? Eh, nije to ono što knjigu čini predivnom. Nećete se previše uživjeti u (pod)radnje ni već naveden broj likova i događaja, ali ono u što ćete se zaljubiti jesu margine strani ...more
NancyHelen
This is a coming-of-age novel about 12 year old T.S. Spivet, scientific genius and skilled map maker and illustrator. T.S. wins a prize from the Smithsonian and decides to find his way to Washington D.C. from his home in Montana to accept the prize. His family don't know and apparently don't care too much, and so his adventure begins.

The book is beautifully illustrated with margin notes and drawings helping you to see the world through T.S.'s eyes. His imagination is still strong despite his sci
...more
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Reif Larsen (b. 1980) is an American author, best known for The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet.
Larsen is a graduate of Brown University and Columbia University. Living in New York.
More about Reif Larsen...
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“Outside, there was that predawn kind of clarity, where the momentum of living has not quite captured the day. The air was not filled with conversation or thought bubbles or laughter or sidelong glances. Everyone was sleeping, all of their ideas and hopes and hidden agendas entangled in the dream world, leaving this world clear and crisp and cold as a bottle of milk in the fridge. ” 41 likes
“I had trouble listening to adults who didn't really mean anything that they said; it was as if their language poured into my ears only to drain right out a little spigot in the back of my head.” 27 likes
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