In keeping with the current trend of giving books excessively long titles, this memoir by David Finch tries to pack as much as possible into 19 words. But the title still raises more questions than it answers — and that’s how it should be, as the publisher wants you to buy and read the book, after all. It’s definitely worth reading, but borrow it from the library, as I did. The Journal of Best Practices is an expansion of a magazine article from the New York Times; this memoir would have been better at half its current length, longer than the original article but shorter than the current book, as it feels meandering and padded. But how does a publisher sell a half-length book?
Anyway, as you might gather from the title, David Finch is a married adult with Asperger Syndrome who had to figure out how to overcome this disability in order to save his marriage. What you can’t tell from the title is that he didn’t discover that he had Asperger’s until he had been married for many years; it was mild enough that he hadn’t been diagnosed when he was a child. Like many techies, he just seemed mildly odd, with poor social skills. When he finally learned (from his wife’s initiative) that he had Asperger’s, he decided to keep a “journal of best practices” so that he could record everything he learned about how he was supposed to behave, since he couldn’t just pick up clues from those around him. The resulting memoir is both funny and touching, demonstrating an astonishingly honest self-awareness on the part of the author.
Over the years I have taught several students with diagnoses somewhere on the autism spectrum, and a lot more students who were undiagnosed but perhaps should have been. I thus found Finch’s book particularly meaningful, even if not as meaningful as it must be to someone with a spouse or partner who has Asperger’s. But, along with being too long, it still leaves me wondering about diagnoses: why is it that someone who is diagnostically neurotypical can have more issues than someone else who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s?