Looking for a fantastic reading list that supports neurodivergent storytelling? These books were all written by neurodivergent authors. From autism and ADHD, to dyslexia, dyspraxia and aspraxia, human beings are made in so many different and beautiful ways. Yet oftentimes, our diversity is not reflected in our books.
It’s no secret that neurodiversity is not well-represented in media. With neurodivergent characters in TV and film usually written and portrayed by neurotypical people, we’re left with misrepresentation and (oftentimes offensive) stereotypes.
In turn, neurodivergent people are overlooked for opportunities, and don’t get to tell their own stories.
Unfortunately, this neurodiverse reading list isn’t going to change that. But as a neurodivergent human myself, I am keen to amplify our voices and show that we are capable of telling a wonderful and compelling range of stories.
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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
by Jenny Lawson
Recommended by Jenn of Sickgirltravels.com
“Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” is the first book by author, blogger, and humorist, Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess. Lawson made her literary debut with this laugh out loud, “mostly true memoir” back in April of 2012. The book quickly jumped to number 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.
Lawson lives with depression, anxiety, avoidant personality disorder, and mild obsessive-compulsive disorder. She also has rheumatoid arthritis and a wonderfully twisted and comical view of life. In “Let’s Pretend” Lawson reflects on her neurodivergence as she takes readers on a side-splitting journey through her bizarre, taxidermy-filled, rural Texas upbringing, mortifying high school years, the birth of her daughter, and her marriage to long-suffering husband, Victor.
With chapters like, “My childhood: David Copperfield meets Guns & Ammo Magazine” and “If you see my liver, you’ve gone too far” Lawson’s razor-sharp wit and the absolute joy with which she describes some of life’s most mortifying and imperfect moments will have anyone embracing the utter absurdity of life.
The Kiss Quotient
by Helen Hoang
Recommended by Jennifer from Family Trip Guides
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang was my favourite romance novel book of last year. It is the story of a woman with autism who hires a male escort to help her learn how to have a relationship. It might seem like a far-fetched plot but the author brings warmth and humour and ultimately understanding to the characters.
Helen Hoang herself learned she had Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 34 and uses her perspective to inform her writing. Her books discuss neurodiverse characters, Vietnamese American stories and even some math. I felt drawn into Stella’s world and learned so much through her eyes.
And if you like this book, you will be happy to know Hoang wrote 2 others in the series, The Bride Test (2019) and The Heart Principle (August 2021).
by Octavia Butler (dyslexic)
Recommended by Dagney from Dark Distractions
Octavia Butler is one of the most well known neurodiverse authors there is. She was dyslexic, but she didn’t let that stop her from becoming the first Black female sci-fi author. Kindred is one of her most famous books, and as one of two standalone novels, a great place to start with her work.
As Kindred opens we meet Dana, a Black woman celebrating her 26th birthday with her husband in 1976 California. Except all of a sudden Dana finds herself transported somewhere else just in time to save a young boy from drowning. Although she makes it back to her home safely, she is understandably shaken and refuses to leave the house in case it happens again. Which it does. She is once again brought just in time to save the boy again – this time from a fire.
After she is transported a second time, Dana starts to realise she is time travelling to antebellum Maryland where slavery is alive and well, and as a Black woman, she is in grave danger. Dana also discovers that the boy she keeps going back in time to save is her great-great-grandfather.
If you love time travel books or sci-fi in general, Kindred is a must. However, it is not an easy read and can be triggering. There are many instances of racism and sexual assault, and a tiny bit of 70s appropriate ableism.
Jordan’s World – The Boy Who Couldn’t Speak, Yet
by Jordan Christian LeVan
Recommended by Stephanie Perez from Navigating Adventure
The Boy Who Couldn’t Speak, Yet is a children’s book by first-time author Jordan Christian LeVan. Jordan was born with Childhood Apraxia of Speech, also known as verbal apraxia.
This neurological condition affects the brain’s ability to send signals to the mouth for accurate speech. This meant that Jordan couldn’t speak until well into his childhood – and his mother was told he would never read or write.
Jordan has become a well-loved advocate for families of other verbal apraxia warriors. His publishing of this book (along with all his other achievements) is a great reminder for children and adults alike that no one should ever tell someone who is neurodiverse what they can or can’t achieve.
This illustrated children’s book tells the inspiring story of a boy who couldn’t speak (yet) but came to a place of radical self-acceptance. It’s a great book for parents and teachers to share with their children – to teach them about compassion, empathy and loving ourselves for all our differences and the things that make us special.
It’s also a great resource for having conversations with children about neurodiversity and the fact that being different can be a wonderful gift. The Boy Who Couldn’t Speak, Yet is available to purchase through Amazon.
The House in the Cerulean Sea
by T.J. Klune (ADHD)
Recommended by Jeremy from Cultura Obscura
When the quiet yet meticulous Linus Baker is unexpectedly summoned from his small desk to a meeting with Extremely Upper Management, he thinks it can only be bad news. He’s forty, he’s living alone with nothing but an unfriendly cat and some old records, and his career prospects at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth are at an all-time low.
So when they tell him that, in fact, he’s to be sent on a secret field mission of the utmost importance, he’s both mentally – and soon enough, physically – propelled out of his comfort zone. Soon he and his cat are on their way to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where he is to give the place a thorough and unyielding inspection. The children, the orphanage and even its mysterious director are all to be assessed. And oh, what children they are …
The House in the Cerulean Sea is a heartfelt, charming and often hilarious work of LGBTQ+ fantasy fiction. As we follow Linus attempting to adjust to his highly unusual new case, we see how he tackles keeping the professional and the personal separate, despite his increasing involvement in the children’s daily lives.
Themes of parenthood, community, prejudice, class, identity, sexuality and trauma gradually emerge as the story unfolds, leading the reader to moments of joy, laughter, anger, sadness and delight throughout. Anyone who has ever felt outside of the majority in pretty much any group will find something of themselves in this book.
All the Weight of our Dreams:
On Living Racialized Autism
edited by Lydia X. Z. Brown, E. Ashkenazy, and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu
Has anyone been told they can’t have autism or because they’re not a white guy? Um yeah, that’s a real thing that happens. Autistic people are as diverse as people without autism, and this fantastic anthology features 61 writers and artists. Not because they’re autistic, but because they’re talented, and deserve more recognition.
To quote the book description, this collection of poetry, essays, short fiction, photography, paintings, and drawings represents the lives, politics, and artistic expressions of Black, Brown, Latinx, Indigenous, Mixed-Race, and other racialized and people of colour from many autistic communities, often speaking out sharply on issues of marginality, intersectionality, and liberation.
Turtles all the Way Down
by John Green
I actually didn’t know much about John Green until someone recommended this book, but soon found out he suffers life-long anxiety alongside OCD.
On the Edge of Gone
by Corinne Duyvis
Alongside being an advocate for disabled voices, Duyvis is a talented author in her own right. Her YA debut is an apocalyptic thriller featuring an autistic female as the main character and is next up on my reading list.
The Secret Life of a Black Aspie
by Anand Prahlad
For the first four years of his life, Prahlad didn’t speak. But beyond words, his magical interior world and sensory experiences blurred into a strange and numinous world, and he later grew into an artist and education.
I have yet to read Prahlad’s book, rooted in black folklore and offering new perspectives on autism, and I cannot wait to read it. Watch this space.
Pretend to read this book
to avoid talking to strangers
by Cassie Bailey
Um yep. that’s me, and this collection of six short stories I wrote throughout my 20s doesn’t shy away from ADHD storytelling and the anxiety-inducing thought patterns that like to take a passenger seat alongside neurodiversity.
This is entirely accidental because I hadn’t been diagnosed with ADHD or dyspraxia at the time ‘Pretend to read this book to avoid talking to strangers‘ was written. Looking back, with themes including masking, struggling to communicate with others, and trying to keep track of multiple thought patterns, it seems hard to believe!
Wires doesn’t mind being alone when the world ends, but she’d rather be with the girl she loves. Sharon connects with others through her daydreams, even when she can’t talk to them in person. Kelly and Adam seek connection through their art, but is it at the expense of their relationship? And somewhere, deep at the bottom of the ocean, a woman speaks to the sea and stars, as they help her remember where she belongs.
Each tale was written at a different point in the author’s 20s, and the scattered but reflective story structures explore the inner workings of her neurodiverse brain.
At the crux of it, these tales focus on loneliness and the delights and difficulties of finding human connection.
Hi, I’m Cassie, and I’ve been solo travelling the globe since May 2018. In this time, I’ve backpacked around Southeast Asia, Japan and The Balkans, alongside spending a year living in Australia. Currently isolating in New Zealand.