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Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  699 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
When Paul Collins's son Morgan was two years old, he could read, spell, and perform multiplication tables in his head...but not answer to his own name. A casual conversation-or any social interaction that the rest of us take for granted-will, for Morgan, always be a cryptogram that must be painstakingly decoded. He lives in a world of his own: an autistic world.

In Not Even
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 3rd 2004 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2004)
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Dec 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
May 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jul 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Julie Akeman
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Kate Thompson
Mar 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 02, 2012 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 is currently reading it
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 01, 2011 marked it as to-read
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.
Erin Isgett
May 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jennifer Stock
May 06, 2012 rated it really liked it

Great help in understanding autism from a parents perspective. Very well written
I saw&heard Collins in the documentary Loving Lampposts. I was intrigued by his book's title, knowing its reference as I do.

I got antsy during most some of the book's historical bits (the "Lost History of Autism" parts (see the subtitle)). I read those as fast as possible, to get back to the "Father's Journey" parts. In retrospect, the Lost History bits did help me improve upon my notions of mind and autism.


Snips 'n' Snails

It's engineers all the way down.

They were also nursing at 3 y.o
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Collins' best book yet: poignant, well researched, and intensely personal. Paul and Jennifer began to realize that their son Morgan was mathematically and linguistically gifted, but unable to relate to other socially. As they looked for a diagnosis and suspected Asperger's syndrome, Paul did what he does so well: he researched the subject. Historical accounts, early medical studies, and a visit to Asperger's home in Austria all combined to provide a fascinating account of this fascinating syndro ...more
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
Incredibly engaging book about a family and their dealing with their only son having been diagnosed with Autism and how they deal and adapt to working with him and accepting this as part of their life. I did like how there was quite a bit of history on the diagnosis itself and historical references throughout about Autism with various cases and examples.
Apr 29, 2012 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
Mar 30, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this book to see if I could understand something about autism to help some of my scouts.
Jonathan Karmel
Feb 17, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Feb 26, 2017 marked it as to-buy
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Ellis Amdur
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crucial
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Especially looking for readers with personal experience. 3 8 Apr 23, 2011 05:45PM  
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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
“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.” 67 likes
More quotes…