Neil Patrick Harris (Penguin Books Australia) 2014, 294pp, RRP $29.99

Neil Patrick Harris, star of Doogie Howser M.D, How I Met Your Mother and countless stage productions, has written his autobiography in the style of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Flip to one page and Harris’ life comes to a tragic and bloody end as he pursues his dream of starring in a Steven Sondheim musical. His remains are never found. Flip to another page and you can follow Harris’ career as a magician (really). Other paths follow his coming out as (firstly) bisexual, and then (his true awakening) gay. Other paths follow his quite remarkable acting career. And others still follow his relationships, and the eventual love he found with his partner. Choose Your Own Autobiography - Neil Patrick Harris - Penguin Australia - The Clothesline

It would appear, unlike many celebrity autobiographies, that Harris is being candid throughout. Although his audacious confidence is there in abundance (there’s perhaps more Barney in him that he would admit), there is also a pretty honest portrayal of his life, including everything from the career lows to living it up lavishly with Elton John in his private holiday residence. And he doesn’t mind dishing the dirt on fellow celebs: he calls out the divas he’s performed with over the years.

But what is most engaging about Choose Your Own Autobiography is the humour. Harris has a distinctive voice on the page and it’s entertaining, fun, funny, smart and more than a little bit rude.

I did the unthinkable when I read it – I read from cover to cover rather than following the instructions at the bottom of the page. This led to a pretty disjointed reading experience, as it should, but I didn’t want to miss out on anything (it paid off – I found the secret page with instructions on how to greet Harris – secret handshake style – if I ever meet him!). But the format works. Harris has led so many lives – child performer, TV actor, stage actor, gay icon, father, award show host, magician – that it seems right to plot out his life in this way, and it does add to the fun of the whole experience, especially the bits where he dies in quite creative ways. It seems like Harris had fun imaging gruesome ways to get himself killed!

It’s a cracking read, and I would heartily recommend it.

Lynette Washington

This title is available through the Penguin Books Australia website: Click here to purchase your copy.

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