Narrator: Neil Patrick Harris
Publisher: Random House Audio (2014)
Length: 7 hours 15 minutes
So, obviously, this is Harris’s autobiography. The book has been specially adapted for the audio version (hooray!). I read that the paper version lets you flip around the book, making creative decisions for Harris’s life like you would in those Choose Your Own Adventure novels I so enjoyed as a kid. So the audio version is done quite well, maintaining the humor and wit of the false deaths and other alternate lives of Harris.
I do believe this is one of the most entertaining autobiographies I have picked up in a while. I thought I knew something of this talented actor before I picked up the book, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out I knew rather little. For the most part, the book takes us through his life up to his early 40s in a chronological order. Harris does a really good job of putting the reader in his shoes and finding the humor in the situation even when it can only truly be appreciated when looking back on the past.
While I knew Harris was a child star in the TV show Doogie Howser, M.D., I really didn’t understand what it meant for both Harris and his parents for him to be an under-aged actor in Hollywood. Essentially, he had to be legally escorted by a parent until he came of the legal age to work unattended. So his parents had to put their lives and careers in New Mexico on hold in order for Harris to have this acting gig. Dedication – that’s what that is.
From there, I learned about his time spent on the New York theater scene and making made-for-TV movies back in Hollywood. Eventually, he lands the part of Barney Stinson in the long running TV show How I Met Your Mother. Now, this part here kind of lost me. Prior to listening to this book, I had never seen an episode of this show. So when Harris starts channeling the character Barney (a man’s man and womanizer) it was so completely different from his tone for the rest of the book, I wasn’t too sure what to make of it. By now, I have watched quite a few episodes of this show and the Barney Stinson parts of this book make a lot more sense. So, I highly recommend you catch at least a few episodes of that series before diving into this book.
The humor is laced throughout this book. Some of it is outright fanciful, such as the made up alternative endings that feature Harris dying in some gruesome way. Other parts are Harris pointing out character flaws (in himself and in others) and yet humanizing them with humor. There are a few times where he talks about rough patches where he or others were out of line and apologies were needed and he treats these with grace and as learning points.
Finally, I loved how open he was about his sexuality. Harris is what you might call a late bloomer. It took him some time to figure out his orientation and then to embrace it. I think that anyone who is fumbling (or has fumbled) around trying to figure out this part of themselves would enjoy this aspect to the book.
All around, this book was well worth my time. Now, I just wish I could have tried out the card tricks while driving.
The Narration: Harris did quite the nice job of narrating his own book. For much of it, he just needed to use his own natural voice. Here and there he tossed in a few character voices when another actor or celebrity had nice or funny things to say about Harris. He also included a recording of his kid self giving a little speech he practiced for school.
What I Liked: Plenty of humor; talks of both professional and private lives; brings up a few rough patches but uses them as learning points; is open about his sexuality and the long trip it took to figure that out.
What I Disliked: At first I didn’t know what the author was doing with the Barney Stinson character.
What Others Think: