One of the world's fifty living autistic savants is the first and only to tell his compelling and inspiring life story - and explain how his incredible mind works.
This unique first-person account offers a window into the mind of a high-functioning, 27-year-old British autistic savant with Asperger's syndrome. Tammet's ability to think abstractly, deviate from routine, and empathize, interact and communicate with others is impaired, yet he's capable of incredible feats of memorization and mental calculation. Besides being able to effortlessly multiply and divide huge sums in his head with the speed and accuracy of a computer, Tammet, the subject of the 2005 documentary Brainman, learned Icelandic in a single week and recited the number pi up to the 22,514th digit, breaking the European record. He also experiences synesthesia, an unusual neurological syndrome that enables him to experience numbers and words as "shapes, colors, textures and motions." Tammet traces his life from a frustrating, withdrawn childhood and adolescence to his adult achievements, which include teaching in Lithuania, achieving financial independence with an educational Web site and sustaining a long-term romantic relationship. As one of only about 50 people living today with synesthesia and autism, Tammet's condition is intriguing to researchers; his ability to express himself clearly and with a surprisingly engaging tone (given his symptoms) makes for an account that will intrigue others as well.
Daniel Tammet was born in a working-class suburb of London, England, on 31 January 1979, the eldest of nine children. His mother had worked as a secretarial assistant; his father was employed at a sheet metal factory. Both became full-time parents.
Despite early childhood epileptic seizures and atypical behaviour, Tammet received a standard education at local schools. His learning was enriched by an early passion for reading. He won the town's 'Eager Reader' prize at the age of eleven. At secondary school he was twice named Student of the Year. He matriculated in 1995 and completed his Advanced level studies (in French, German, and History) two years later.
In 1998 Tammet took up a volunteer English teaching post in Kaunas, Lithuania, returning to London the following year. In 2002 he launched the online language learning company Optimnem. It was named a member of the UK's 'National Grid for Learning' in 2006.
In 2004, Tammet was finally able to put a name to his difference when he was diagnosed with high-functioning autistic savant syndrome by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University's Autism Research Centre.
The same year, on March 14, Tammet came to public attention when he recited the mathematical constant Pi (3.141...) from memory to 22,514 decimal places in 5 hours, 9 minutes, without error. The recitation, at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, set a European record.
Tammet began writing in 2005. His first book, Born On A Blue Day, subtitled 'A Memoir of Asperger's and an Extraordinary Mind', was first published in the UK in 2006 and became a Sunday Times bestseller. The US edition, published in 2007, spent 8 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. In 2008, the American Library Association named it a 'Best Book for Young Adults'. It was also a Booklist Editors' Choice. It has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide, and been translated into more than 20 languages.
In 2009, Tammet published Embracing the Wide Sky, a personal survey of current neuroscience. The French edition (co-translated by Tammet himself) became one of the country's best-selling non-fiction books of the year. It also appeared on bestseller lists in the UK, Canada, and Germany, and has been translated into numerous languages.
Thinking in Numbers, Tammet's first collection of essays, is published in August 2012.
In 2008 Tammet emigrated to France. He lives in Paris.
The problem with autobiography is that extraordinary people are not necessary good writers. Daniel Tammet has an extraordinary mind - he can visualise numbers, recite pi to record-breaking decimal places and learn languages with astounding ease*. This is linked to his Asperger's and also to epilepsy.
Although a novel human story, this does not provide much insight into how Tammet's brain works and why other brains are not like his. I expected his unique cognition would be illuminated through precise examples and that these would shed more light on cognitive psychology. Instead, this is a human interest story and can be only enjoyed as such.
*It is interesting that Tammet's rapid language learning is attributed to his uncanny ability to learn and apply rules but no mention is made of his lack of social inhibition, which is a huge stumbling block for adult language learners.
With a full title (in the States) of Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant, Daniel Tammet's memoir might seem intimidating. Yet the text itself is anything but--the chapters are relatively short, his sentences are easy to follow, and (aside from the first chapter, "Blue Nines and Red Words") it is told in straightforward chronology.
Tammet is 28 years old; he's been diagnosed as both a savant and autistic, which means that he can remember nearly everything he's read, including massive amounts of numbers, but that he spent most of his life feeling like an outsider unsure of how to interact with other people. I first learned of the memoir both through a book review somewhere else and a special on TV about him--in which, among other things, he learned to speak Icelandic fluently in one week. He sees words and numbers as colors and textures, with different characters having different sizes and shapes.
I would love to say that it is a brilliant memoir, but to be honest, there were few points where it lived up to the dust jacket's "triumphant and uplifting" description. True, he has been incredibly successful in spite of his autism-related limitations (he runs a successful online language learning business, and is considered one of the most socially functional autistic cases ever studied--as a result, he's a scientist's wet dream to studying the brain, savantism, and autism).
While the text is quite informative into how his mind works and what his life has been like, there were large chunks where I felt disconnected from the text. This sense of distance was a result of two elements. First, in the entire book--though most noticeably in the first few chapters--it seems like Tammet and his editors just can't seem to decide what exactly they want this memoir to do. Tammet swings from describing how he sees the world (fairly passionately and intricately) to listing off events of his childhood, to offering somewhat stilted advice to those with autism and their friends and family. Since the advice frequently takes the form of a paragraph awkwardly tacked on at the end of a chapter, I felt like it wasn't really organically grown from the text.
Secondly, in many cases, Tammet is simply listing and recounting events. The most engaging passages are where he discusses how he sees certain letters and words, how he learned Icelandic, how he memorized over 22,500 numbers of pi for a public recital, the ins and outs of his relationship, and when he meets Kim Peek (on whom Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man is based). In short, when he's writing about things that matter to him, it's an incredibly engaging memoir. But so much of his recounting has the air of something he's telling us because he expects it's what we're interested in--and that he'd kind of bored by it. As a result, the rest of the memoir is consumed by an almost list-like, fairly dispassionate chronology of his experiences in grade school, secondary school, teaching abroad, etc.
In some ways, this second "problem" seems a result of the first: the focus of the text seems torn. The shorter early chapters seem to exacerbate the problem by skipping rather quickly through things--many of them things Tammet does not remember but his parents do, which could account for his lack of energy when discussing them.
His is a fascinating mind and experience, and the book is definitely worth reading if you're interested in how the brain works, how autism or savantism work, and particularly how Tammet sees numbers, letters, etc. (he includes illustrations of what some letters and numbers look like to him, which are cool). It does provide a lot of insight into how someone with Asperger's syndrome (considered a milder, more social form of autism) functions and thinks. (The UK title, Born on a Blue Day: A Memoir of Asperger's and an Extraordinary Mind, actually seems more representative of the text itself.) Otherwise, this is one story where the condensed version of the TV special might actually be preferable, as the stilted style in portions of this text rob it of its due.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Daniel Tammet first became known to the world for such feats as setting the world record for memorizing the most digits of PI (22,514) and learning to speak Icelandic in a week. Tammet is a high-functioning autistic savant who also has synesthesia, a neurological mixing of the senses that allows him to see numbers in shapes and colors.
Tammet's autobiography provides a fascinating glimpse into the inner world of a man who experiences life very differently from the rest of us. As he discusses growing up as the eldest of nine children, Tammet writes in great detail about what life is like for a person who experiences numbers as a landscape he can walk within and yet can be easily overwhelmed by the normal stimulus of modern life. There is a certain detached air to Tammet's prose, but his writing is extremely lucid and I found his unique perspective on the world both engaging and inspiring.
The author of this autobiography is a gay, Christian, epileptic, synesthete with a photographic memory. Unfortunately, he also has Asperger's, so instead of serving up a boldly self-satirizing confessional, he subjects us to a robotic catalogue of chronologically ordered facts about his life, wholly devoid of emotional connection, thematic unity, narrative tension, and moral value. There is virtually nothing here that would interest a non-autistic person.
To give you an idea of what I mean, consider that Tammet devotes three full pages to describing (proudly, and in excruciating detail) his unique permutation on the card game Solitaire; and yet he is happy to squeeze into a single, short paragraph the stories of how he and his boyfriend first met one another's respective parents.
Tammet's profound social and emotional deficits are matched only by the embarrassing artlessness of his prose. I can say, without exaggeration, that I have never read a more stilted and unsophisticated published work in my entire life. The fact that this volume ever saw the light of day -- and the fact that it apparently hoodwinked some professional critics (all of whom should be ashamed of themselves) -- is a testament to the current craze for neurological novelty of the cheapest variety.
Like Kim Meek (the real-life inspiration for "Rain Man"), who also makes an appearance in the book, Daniel Tammet's "abilities" are notable only for their grotesque other-ness and not for their practical utility or moral virtue. He is nothing more than a freakshow, who has benefited from a diseased strain of Western liberalism that embraces "differentness" even at the expense of normative values like empathy, humility, and humor.
If you think I'm going too far, I invite you to read page 82 on which the author recounts how he hit a little girl (one of the precious few people in the book whose name he fails to remember) with no good reason and without a hint of remorse. One has the impression that Tammet's life is littered with such victims of his pathology, even as his relatives and teachers bend over backwards to accommodate him.
Príbeh o vnímaní sveta očami a mysľou autistického génia, ktorý má aspergera, prekonal epilepsiu, je gay a vyrastal s očakávaním, že pravdepodobne nikdy nebude nikam patriť.
Má tzv. savantský syndróm, neskutočne mu to páli, čísla vidí vo farbách a obrazoch. Zapamätal si matematickú konštantu π na 22 514 číslic za desatinnou čiarkou, naučil sa islandsky za týždeň. Otvorene popisuje svoje medzery v sociálnom cítení a všetko je to podľa mňa veľmi pútavo a zaujímavo napísané. Osobne ma to veľmi bavilo, pretože mám rád matematiku, fascinujú ma géniovia a mal som radosť z toho, že som mohol nahliadnuť do vnímania sveta z iného uhla pohľadu.
Fascinujú ma príbehy ľudí, ktorí zjavnú životnú nevýhodz dokážu nejakým spôsobom premeniť na ohromnú výhodu. Daniel Tammet je navyše jeden z mála ľudí s ojedinelým savantským syndrómom, ktorí dokážu opísať, čo presne sa s nimi deje, keď robia tieto zázračné veci.
Nie každý s týmto syndrómom má to šťastie. V dokumente Brainman hovorili, že mnohým sa dostatočne nevyvinú sociálne a komunikačné zručnosti. On je tiež ochotný spolupracovať s vedcami, aby skúmali jeho mozog, pretože chce prispieť k poznaniu ľudstva.
Ak ste videli film Rain Man, tak Daniel Tammet je podobne unikátny človek ako Raymond. Savant, ktorý bol inšpiráciou pre tento film dokonca v knihe vystupuje.
Pre mňa úplne výborná a zaujímavá kniha, som rád, že som na ňu narazil. Ak váhate, či si ju prečítať, pozrite si dokument Brainman alebo Daniela Tammeta ako hosťa u Davida Lettermana.
Ok, I'm not sure what to do about the star system, but I loved this book so much that it's a five for me. It's non-fiction, and I wouldn't say exactly that it's poetically written, or great literature, but I found it amazing. For one thing, forget the sexy title, the really interesting stuff in here is about this man's struggles, or may I even go so far as to be politically incorrect and say "deficits." How he copes with those differences is much more intriguing than his savant aptitudes.
I realize that people are getting more interested in hearing about autism currently, for which I am very thankful, but this book works for anyone who doesn't "fit in" or is going through the struggle of adolescence. How Daniel describes feeling like the odd one out in his family, being puzzled about how to make friends, being the proverbial square peg in a round hole are really universal themes. I don't downplay the autism aspect though, for anyone who wants to understand better what it's like to be in the shoes of someone who toils with the challenge of autism, either as an individual or a caretaker, this book really helps break it down very personally and clearly.
Frequently, one of the more difficult characteristics of autism is the strain to communicate, not only with speech but also in writing. Daniel is able to articulate so beautifully what goes on in his head and compare it with neuro typical experiences that I am doubly impressed. It really sheds a light for those of us who can't relate, and puts into words what other autistic individuals feel but can't express.
I think other parents of kids with aspergers or high functioning autism are going to find great hope in these pages. No, he still can't drive, and his life isn't easy, but it's definitely blessed; he lives independently, and by focusing on his strengths rather than problems he is financially independent with his own web business, has a healthy adult romantic relationship, and tries hard to advocate for others with autism by taking advantage of educational opportunities even though it's hard for him. It's a simple, quick read without a lot of scientific jargon to slow it down. I didn't just enjoy this book, I thank him for it.
By the way, I haven't taken the time to write a review, but another book that I really liked with similar themes is John Elder Robison's Look Me In the Eye.
Daniel Tammet is a savant who sees numbers as shapes, colors, and textures, and who can perform unbelievable feats of calculation in his head. In 2004 he became something of a celebrity in England when he memorized and recited the first 22,000 digits of pi, setting a new world record.
The cover is a bit misleading with the tagline, "inside the extraordinary mind of an autistic savant". The author is not, in fact, autistic, and never was. He suffered from epilepsy & seizures during early childhood which doctors and scientists believe caused his savantism. This becomes immediately clear upon reading the first pages of the book. He does have Asperger's syndrome, but although Asperger's is considered to be loosely related to autism (or more accurately on the spectrum), it is certainly not the same. It is a much milder disorder, much less debilitating, and much more common. It is fairly common for someone with Asperger's to lead a more or less normal life and fairly common for many to go undiagnosed until much later in life…. Several major Silicon Valley CEOs have been diagnosed with it & many more well known people of note have been retroactively diagnosed as having it. There was an article on Wired a while back entitled “The Geek Syndrome”, which seems to cover Asperger's pretty well, at a layman's level, so I'm not going to detail it further here. Long story short, I consider this tagline disingenuous on the part of the publisher.
I found this book rather interesting. It is well-written and engaging, and the main character (the author himself) is interesting to get to know.
But I began to worry that the entire book would be a loose collection of examples of synesthesia. For an example, Tammet sees the number “1″ as a very bright white, the number “11″ is friendly, and “5″ is loud like a clap of thunder. Scientists are particularly interested in his ability to see numbers as landscapes with color and texture and Tammet is currently helping them with their studies. I wonder at the outcome of this as no two people think alike and worry that his way of seeing numbers etc will be interpreted as some kind of bible within the scientific community. Tammet’s input is important but like statistics he is only one not the majority.
While there is the assumption that synaesthesia is rare I don’t believe it is “that” rare and believe that many people have some degree of it in various ways. I myself see words in images or moods as I read them and I know many others that do – and many folk who do gravitate towards the arts in some form. Ditto many musicians report seeing music in ways that the rest of us don’t experience. I have to admit I can’t do much maths these days without anti-depressants (& I’d rather not take them) - I now have a mental block for it ~ although in primary school I was pretty good & developed my own math system based on what I now know to be a binary system, until the nun’s beat it out of me,(hence the mental block)…. Anyhow that’s probably TMI - but relevant to me, so when I came to Tammet’s chapter on pi and more detailed maths I just skipped it. Maths geeks though will love it – I guess to give him his due what he can do is nothing short of amazing and his ability is compared to the ‘Rainman”, Kim Peek, who Tammet later met & continues to remain friends with.
The subsequent chapters begin a more chronological journey through the author's life. Tammet had a very difficult education. He was bullied by his classmates because of his “weirdness” and compulsive behaviour. He was socially withdrawn and preferred his own company. His parents were accepting and supporting of him and he credits their help with getting him through difficult periods.
Tammet gives this advice to parents of children suffering from epilepsy or autism: “Give your children the self-belief to hold on to their dreams, because they are the things that shape each person’s future”. (Something all parents should try to do).
Tammet is creating his own language, strongly influenced by the vowel and image-rich languages of northern Europe. (He already speaks French, German, Spanish, Lithuanian, Icelandic and Esperanto.) The vocabulary of his language - "Mänti", meaning a type of tree - reflects the relationships between different things. The word "ema", for instance, translates as "mother", and "ela" is what a mother creates: "life". "Päike" is "sun", and "päive" is what the sun creates: "day". Tammet hopes to launch Mänti in academic circles later this year, his own personal exploration of the power of words and their inter-relationship.His website, Optimnem sells foreign language courses. Personally I found the idea of his "Mänti" language a bit pointless and silly when he can already speak multiple languages and there exists already Esperanto., but whatever rocks his boat.
Some other reviews I’ve read find difficulty in the fact that he is homosexual and Christian but there will always be naysayers and haters out there. In the ¾ quarter section of the book the narrative drifts a bit during his discussion of how he sees God & that could be my own bias in not being particularly interested one way or the other - and while I appreciate why he included it (to show he does have empathy and feelings etc), his openness on his sexuality and beliefs have probably caused him more derision than acceptance in some religious sectors. He does delve into religious matters more deeply on his blog.
Overall I’d recommend “Born on a Blue Day” to anyone interested in the workings of the human mind (particularly if you love maths). Daniel Tammet is an interesting guy. Exceptional in some areas and pretty normal in others. I feel the most positive thing is the overriding sense you get from Tammet’s life is that you cannot hurl everyone into the same basket based on stereotypical medical categories like “savant” or “asperger’s”. While he is awesome calculating pi he does the dishes just like us.
Interesting peek into savant mind (some pages of his school experience remind me The Last Samurai). Would I like to be a savant? Hell no! Would I like to have some of his superpowers (like remembering stuff and learning new languages in week? Hell yes!
If you have read BORN ON A BLUE DAY by Daniel Tammet, chances are you either know someone with Asperger's Syndrome or have seen the author profiled on television. However, I hope that in time, its readership expands: If you fall into neither of these categories, please consider reading this book.
Asperger's is considered to be on the autism spectrum. Its designation as a syndrome reflects the current thinking that it is a cluster of symptoms including difficulty interpreting social cues and difficulty with emotional processing.
However, any individual with Asperger's is a complex product of both personality and the syndrome. This book was not written in order define Asperger's. Instead, try to remember what it was like when you were a child as Tammet tells his story. There is the emotional response to the mere sound of a word, before cognizance of definition (the roots of onomatopoeia). There is the ability to create metaphor that neurologists call synesthstic experience. Anyone who ever spent a childhood intrigued by solving mathematical puzzles will relate to Tammet's childhood enthusiasm for numbers and codes.
Tammet's interests are varied. He speaks of gravitating toward chess because the focus is on the moves and the game, not interacting with other people. He also loves the quiet that envelopes the game room, allowing him to block out distractions. He attributes a particular aptitude for proofreading to his ability to focus on details rather than processing holistically. He speaks of obsessive phases. One time he was fascinated with the tactile sensation of chestnuts and collected so many, his parents were afraid the floor would give way and demanded he keep his collection in the yard. Then, suddenly one day he moved on to a new interest.
Those who have previously heard of Tammet will recall that he is a mathematical savant. He sees numbers in his mind as shapes and colors. This in turn enables him to process complex mathematical problems effortlessly: Identifying prime numbers, multiplication, probability and permutations. One of his most treasured experiences is meeting Kim Peek, the inspiration for the Rainman character in the film. Kim articulates one of the central themes of the book: “You don't have to be disabled to be different, because everybody's different.”
This is a candid view of an extraordinary person's way of thinking.
NOTE: I read this book in 2010, but wanted to add it after recently reading NOT EVEN WRONG, another book about autism. Anyone interested in a deeper discussion of synesthesia should take a look at V.S. Ramachandran's book, THE TELL-TALE BRAIN.
Hoci hodnotím na 3 hviezdy, je to kniha, ktorú určite odporúčam prečítať. Jej pridaná hodnota je najmä v pochopení, ako môže človek na autistickom spektre vnímať svet. Literárne to nie je skvost, ale číta sa veľmi ľahko a rýchlo. Moja zásadná výtka je v tom, že z autorovho pohľadu bol jeho život v podstate jednoduchý, čo môže u niektorých ľudí urobiť dojem, že však čo už je na autizme také zlé. V podstate v knihe nie sú žiadne reflexie, ako jeho ASD vplývalo na rodičov, súrodencov, či naozaj nebol šikanovaný, alebo si len myslel, že nie je. Množstvo podobných otázok mi letelo hlavou pri každom zjednodušenom popise jeho života.
"Tôi sinh vào thứ tư, tôi nhớ chính xác bởi thứ tư là một ngày xanh." Mình vẫn nhớ như in câu nói đầu sách này, bởi lẽ mình cũng sinh vào thử tư . :v Đùa tí thui chứ đây là cuốn viết về người tự kỉ bởi người tự kỉ hay ho nhất mình đọc. Hay hơn cả Bí Ẩn Về Con Chó Lúc Nửa Đêm. Đọc xong mình còn nghĩ thà mình học dở toán còn hơn phải chịu những điều mà người tự kỉ đang chịu. (Dù chuyên ngành mình là toán T__T). Như mọi quyển sách do thành phần thiên về tự nhiên viết, quyển này đầy logic, nhưng chẳng bao giờ nhàm chán.
I read this book in 2008 pre my Goodreads days so didn't write a full review of it, but I agree with the many positive reviews of my friends here. This is a must read book and one which has stayed with me. I have since loaned it many times to friends.
I loved this book and I love this extraordinary young man with his determination and grit.
Uff, na túto knižku mám trochu rozporuplné pocity.
Na jednej strane sa mi tento príbeh páčil. Bola som fascinovaná jeho životom a ako vníma všetko okolo seba. Po dočítaní som si ešte vypočula aj jeden jeho TEDtalk a doteraz žasnem nad tým. Celkovo to bol pre mňa nový pohľad na svet, čísla a jazyky. Bolo to príjemne iné a ak vás zaujíma táto téma, nesmiete túto knižočku vynechať.
Na druhej je to trochu zložitejšie. Nemôžem od takejto knižky čakať nejakú extra akciu, ale prišlo mi, že celé sa to vezie v jednej rovine. Nie je to nevyhnutne zlá vec. Viem si predstaviť, že to niekto vezme skôr ako pozitívum, než negatívnu vec.
Ale! Celé je to napísané na takej príjemnej vlne s peknými hlbšími myšlienkami. Keď hľadáte niečo milé, oddychového charakteru, kde sa budete "usmievať popod fúzy" a zároveň to nemusí byť nevyhnutne romantika - toto je kniha pre vás.
I think I was expecting something different when I picked up this book and even after I had seen part of the movie that was made about Daniel Tammet's life. I was hoping for more detail pertaining to how he sees numbers, people, letters, languages, etc. differently from other people. More about synesthesia. Maybe more amazing stories and exercises demonstrating his ability to work out math problems or logic puzzles quicker than a person who is not a savant. Instead, most of the book is a slow slog through a detail rich account of some rather mundane experiences. I understand that the main point behind the book is that those experiences likely considered trivial by non autistic persons, are anything but ordinary for someone with Aspergers. However, it became dull for me to wade through three pages about how the author reacted to his partner's pet cat(for example).
Had I paid more attention and approached the book with a different frame of mind, I may have liked it considerably more than I did. Unfortunately, this look at the day to day experiences of a person with Aspergers just wasn't all that interesting to me. I've read several articles and stories about people with Aspergers because it is a topic that I find fascinating. This just isn't at the top of my list for information or insight into Asperger's.
Autentické rozprávanie Daniela Tammeta, ktoré je sondou z prvej ruky do myslenia a prežívania savanta. Savanti sú ľudia s poruchou autistického spektra, ľudia s geniálnym nadaním (matematickým či umeleckým), ktorí sa vedia zväčša iba ako-tak zaradiť do normálneho života a ešte menej z nich dokáže svoj výnimočný talent (ak sa prejaví) nejako využiť. Okrem toho, nie každý autista je génius a nie každý savant je autista. Daniel Tammet génius je. Je ale aj človekom, ktorí vďaka podpore svojej rodiny, najmä rodičov a svojho priateľa dokázal prekonať mnohé veci, ktoré sú pre autistov skoro nemožné. Po skončení školy šiel ako dobrovoľník učiť do Litvy, v rámci skúmania svojich geniálnych schopností cestoval lietadlom, spal v hotelových izbách, zoznamoval sa s novými ľuďmi, vystupovať v TV šou, bol o ňom natočený dokumentárny film. V knihe vysvetľuje pomerne dopodrobna svoje detstvo, prežívanie mnohých vecí v rodine, v škole, svoj vzťah k rodičom, súrodencom a nájdenie istoty vo vzťahu s priateľom, dokonca svoje prežívanie viery v Boha, čo je pre autistov skoro nemožné, pretože o imaginatívnych pojmoch nevedia premýšľať. Na knihe je cítiť obrovskú prácu redaktora či redaktorky knihy, ktorá má ale pre čitateľov silnú autobiografickú výpovednú hodnotu.
Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant whose special talents include lightning-fast calculation (including calendrical calculation --- telling on what day of the week any given date will fall), amazing facility with languages (he currently speaks ten, and has even made up his own language) and a near-perfect memory for facts and figures (he's the current European record-holder for reciting pi to the greatest number of digits). He's also a synesthete, which helps him considerably in performing these mathematical and mnemonic feats by giving each number its own distinctive color, shape and emotion. He describes memorizing pi as a walk through a dreamscape, with the differently colored hills and valleys corresponding to different stretches of digits.
(My favorite turn of phrase in the whole book --- which admittedly is fairly artless, but I didn't mind that --- was when he compared memorizing pi to running a marathon in his head. I liked that because, given how he'd just described the experience, it was literally true.)
The book starts out with a brief chapter describing how his synesthesia works, and then goes on to chronicle his life. Other reviewers have complained that a lot of these sections feel forced, like Tammet is himself bored by recounting the trivial details of his life, but feels like he has to in order to write this book. I agree to an extent --- it is clear that the book's heart is in the sections describing numbers, languages and his meeting with fellow savant Kim Peek --- but I also understand why he chose to include his life history. He speaks near the end of the book of wanting to work closely with neuroscientists to figure out how his mind works, and to help answer larger questions about synesthesia, savantism, learning, and the extent to which abilities like his may be latent in most people's brains. To me, his laying out every detail of his infancy and childhood looked like a necessary part of that cooperation.
(Those sections also held some special interest for me, as another autistic person, because I could compare my development and experiences with his.)
I also feel like I have to answer the reviewer below who called Tammet a sociopath. My impression as I was reading his book could not have been further from that! I got the impression that he was loving, kind, deeply humble, and authentically curious about other people and willing to let them into his life. Indeed, of all the (other) autistic people whose autobiographies I've read, Daniel Tammet is one of two I'd most like to meet (the other is Dawn Prince-Hughes), and he seems to me to have the warmest personality.
Having two little brothers that fall on the Autistic Spectrum really made me empathize with Daniel Tammet and the struggles he faces every day just to function. I like that he never glamorized his eventual worldwide fame as one of the few savants that exist and are open enough to tell their stories to all of us so that we may better understand theirs.
Anyone who is familiar with the inflection (or lack thereof) of an Autistic person will instantly feel at ease with Tammet's voice. He tells the story of his life from birth to present day time in a matter-of-fact tone that simply tells a story and asks nothing from you the reader. He doesn't try to pull at one's heartstrings, but in his subtle way of expressing appreciation to his parents and his partner, Neil, he effortlessly manages to do so.
This is a succinct, no-frills novel that is a perfect primer for anyone wanting to dip their toes into what the water's like for the life of a person on the Autism Spectrum.
Keď je niekto génius v niektorých oblastiach, neznamená to, že je i geniálny spisovateľ. Kniha sa čítala výborne, no na konci by sa dala zhrnúť ako vymenovávanie životných udalostí, ktoré autora stretli v tom ktorom danom období. Nahliadnutie do mysle savanta a jej fungovanie zaujalo, no zopár vecí zostalo nedopovedaných a ja by som napr. chcela vedieť akou chorobou trpel jeho otec a ako je možné, že rodičia bez práce boli schopní uživiť a vychovať 9 detí. Tento typ kníh máva zväčša veľkú výpovednú hodnotu, len niekedy chýba tá literárna a musím na záver povedať, že vo mne nevzbudila žiadne emócie. To však môže byť iba chyba v mojom prijímači a vôbec nechcem odrádzať od čítania, lebo za to určite stojí. U mně dobrý.
Som z tejto knihy akási rozpačitá. Na jednej strane ma to fascinovalo, pretože moje vedomosti o Aspergerovom syndróme a celkovo o autizme sú veľmi, veľmi limitované, takisto o epilepsii, o savantizme nehovoriac (to slovo si aj tak nezapamätám). Mňa vždy baví prenikať do mysle ľudí a o to viac, ak je ich myslenie veľmi špecifické. Z tejto stránky som si knihu užívala, pretože to bolo niečo pre mňa úplne neobvyklé a veľmi zaujímavé. Navyše je autor veľmi obdivuhodný človek.
Na druhej strane kniha obsahuje obrovské množstvo pre mňa nezaujímavých, ba až nudných informácií. Napríklad opis matematickej hry s prvočíslami, ktorú si ako dieťa vymyslel, pravidlá blackjacku, televízny program, ktorý videl, keď bol malý, lekcia o gejzíroch a rôzne gramatické príručky. Tieto veci boli bežne opísané na celú dvojstranu (niekedy aj viac) a pre mňa boli maximálne zbytočné a nezaujímavé (a to obzvlášť, keď šlo o matematiku, to som často zbežne prešla, lebo aj tak som tomu nerozumela). Taktiež tam bolo obrovské množstvo repetatívnych informácií a udalosti neboli vždy chronologické, čo bolo miestami dosť mätúce.
Je to škoda, lebo na začiatku som si knihu nesmierne užívala a veľmi ma bavila, dokonca som si myslela, že by sa mohla objaviť v mojich najobľúbenejších knihách roka. Nuž, nevydalo. Ale za čítanie to stálo, naučila som sa veľa o autizme aj o tom syndróme.
I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I was going to. I hate math and at the beginning when he was talking about numbers and how he sees them, I was wondering if I could get through the whole book. I also thought he spent a lot of time talking about his early life and wasn't for sure that I was going to enjoy the book. I am glad I stuck with it though, because it is such an inspiring story about someone who has overcome such odds. Not to mention that even though he has a type of Autism he has managed to write an inspiring book that is very interesting and enjoyable to read. I thought it was admirable that instead of just staying the way he was and writing off his lack of social abilities to his Autism, he genuinely worked very hard at becoming a more social person and developing real relationships with people. I am in no way as extraordinary as Tammet, but I feel that I can relate to many of his feelings of anxiety in different situations. The fact that these anxious feelings are hard for me to overcome, whereas his are probably much worse and that he has persevered and done so much in spite of them is extraordinary to me. It really is an inspiring story that I encourage anyone and everyone to read.
The process of learning is fascinating and Tammet is one of the few people who actually tries to describe how he thinks and learns. Several Goodreads reviewers comment on his writing style and overly descriptive passages. But that's good! If this had been edited, we wouldn't have the opportunity to see how his mind works.
In one chapter, he describes his experiences with pi, an infinite and important number. In early 2004, he attempted and completed the record-breaking task of memorizing and reciting 22,514 digits of pi without error in five hours and nine minutes. That's mind shattering. I couldn't do it; few people could. But Tammet has thinking qualities that most of us cannot even imagine. Because he sees numbers as having shapes and colors, he viewed the sequence as a beautiful landscape consisting of patterns, colors, and textures. For just a few minutes, I'd love to perceive pi his way.
Interesting - actually more questions have arisen in my mind about autism than when I started the book. Three stars - which means I liked it. Well I quess I liked it, sort of. What it did give me is a real feeling for how the author sees life. He has both Asperger's syndrome and synaesthesia. Look them up in Wikipedia if you don't know the terms. There they are explained better than any explanation I could give! What makes this person unique is his ability to explain to us how his brain is working. Most individuals with these syndromes cannot do this.
Individuals with Asperger's sybdrome cannot function well socially. One feels this in the way the book is written - there is always a distance between the reader and the writer. There is something missing in the emotional connection between the book and the reader. I didn't like this, but one cannot blame the author for this since he is autistic. What the author did to remarkably well is get me to understand how he thinks!
I can immediately relate to some of the ways he reacts to specific situations. I can understand how talking to himself when he is stressed gives him strength and security. I also understand how the constancy of numbers gives him security. They are so fixed and stable. On the other hand sometimes I am left totally out in the cold with no understanding and questions surround me. I don't understand how he can have difficulty with abstract concepts and yet feel religious. I can understand his proficiency with numbers because it is tied to his concrete, exact, logical way of looking at the world, but how can he be so good at learning languages which are not logically structured? Perhaps because he is able to see patterns which I do not see. Or maybe he suceeds because he uses visual images to aid him. I know I am not being clear here, but as I read the book so many questions arose that made me uncomfortable. OK, here is another one - how did he manage to go off to Lithuania by himself? It just doesn't fit with his other capabilities. But he did do it, and it is marvelous that he could. Still, I am left with question after question after question. This was upsetting.
How interesting, this book works in a number of ways, and fails in a few others. It's nearly as interesting for its failings as for its successes. It is, as promised, a glimpse into an "extraordinary mind," but it's not just all the things the author says about his experiences (the time he recited the digits of pi for a record setting length, the time he first overcame significant fear to fly on a plane, when he become public speaker counseling others on the minds of savants) there's also the way in which you feel you are reading the equivalent of a "paint by numbers" memoir. The autism of the author makes it difficult for him to truly empathize with emotional experiences that you or I would take for granted and that are also important to writing compellingly. He obviously had a staff of folks - his editors, his devoted lover (so interesting to read about the love affairs of an autistic man btw), and others to help coach this memoir out of him, he even makes note of places where these guides have helped him to understand how to reach out to his audience, but that's just it...and that's also the most fascinating and compelling part of the book, watching this man's mind wrap itself around the task of writing a memoir, a task that he himself admits is nearly alien to him, offers an astounding portrait of how life is experienced through the lens of autism. Like Beethoven, deafly but deftly composing the most beautiful music, the efforts of the author to write a memoir boogle the mind.
An interesting read from an autistic person who doesn't register emotions and have social anxiety like the rest of us. A rare glimpse into a mind functioning very differently than your mind.
I found it interesting how he described the inner workings of his visual mind, learned the 22 514 numbers of pi and how he has worked hard to overcome his drawbacks. An incredible journey no doubt.
Surely Daniel is an extraordinary person and good with numbers like an accountant, but unfortunately the writing should not be a dry accounting of the passing days. Still a good recommendation from a good friend, thanks very much!
I always cherish the opportunity to broaden my horizon and this book is a great introduction to the incredible savants living among us. This book is also a great introduction into neuroscience, I imagine?
All things considered it deserves 3 stars - I liked it.
Surprisingly unremarkable and uninspiring. Perhaps the fact that Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant (Asperger syndrome) should have prepared me for this monotonous description of his life, which lacks anything a "normal" person would appreciate: sparkling anecdotes, humor, good writing and most importantly - and my reason for picking up Born on a Blue Day in the first place - ; a peek into his interesting brain. I expected so much more from "the most remarkable and extraordinary mind on the planet". :-(
Here's a fascinating insight into a baffling mind! To be autistic is rare enough. To have synaesthesia is rare too. To have savant syndrome is even rarer. Well, Daniel Tammet combines all three! More, unlike most individuals with savant syndrome -who usually are so challenged in other cognitive areas that they are dependent for their care- he is perfectly independent; and so fully able to tell about his experience. 'Born on a Blue Day' truly is an extraordinary book.
Starting by reminiscing upon his childhood, it's touching and moving to see him growing up surrounded by people who have absolutely no clue. Asperger wasn't recognised as a unique disorder before 1994, and so here we are, watching upon this little boy making his way through a childhood unlike any others. As with every autobiography, this is a unique personal history for sure. Yet, it echoes with the experiences of many; and when it comes to people like me (so-called 'neurotypicals') he blows away some prejudices still well ingrained among the general population. Autistic people are not loners by choice, they crave friendships and relationships as everyone does; it's their perceived weirdness which doesn't help, and so they often end up lonely by default. Autistic people are not 'retard', they hate being patronised as much as everyone else. Autistic people are also perfectly able to contribute greatly to society (he went on volunteering in Lithuania in his early twenties; and he works - unlike many others on the spectrum, sadly still left behind on the job market...). He was lucky though, in that his family was very loving, nurturing, supportive. As he acknowledges himself, his (numerous!) siblings have done wonders for improving his social skills; like, later on, his long term boyfriend will do wonders to help him connecting with his emotions.
No matter how moving and interesting, though, his family and love story is not what glued me to this read. His mind did.
Following epileptic seizures in childhood (nasty ones, we're talking here about status epilepticus...) his brain was completely reprogramed (for default of a better word) into acquiring amazing skills. Not only does he have synaesthesia, but, he developed a gift for numbers and languages. A visual mind is not unusual for autistic people. The thing with him is that he sees numbers in shapes, colours, textures, and motions! Same with words: he pictures them each with an associated colour. Beyond that, his ability to thus visualise words and numbers as he does allows him to arrange and re-arrange them mentally, merging them altogether, in such a way that he can perform unimaginable calculations. Added to an extraordinary memory for everything related to numeracy (eg dates...) here's a fascinating mind to delve into! Fluent in ten languages, he learnt Icelandic in about a week! He also holds the record for reciting the mathematical constant pi from memory to 22,514 decimal places (a feat that took him more than five hours to perform!).
Not every autistic individual is the same, and, savant syndrome is extremely rare. His autobiography is therefore unique for many reasons. However, despite his 'differentness' (as he calls it) Daniel Tammet's memoir is both touching and compelling. Touching, because being yet another voice from Asperger's his experience has to be discovered for anyone curious about how possible it is to differently perceive the world around. Compelling, because such insight into synaesthesia and savant syndrome make for a engrossing read for whoever is intrigued by how weird the human brain can be. In the end, you cannot but feel admirative in front of a such a person. Remarkable!