On My Nightstand: NeuroTribes

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 26 August 2015 @ 6:15 am

on my nightstand

I’ve read just about every book on autism spectrum disorders out there. When Ben was first diagnosed in 2006, I did what I always do when faced with something I don’t understand; I headed to the bookstore. Borders, z”l, was always first on my list because it was walking distance from our house. I devoured every title I could find, hoping to arm myself with enough information to better understand Ben and his current and future needs. With a great deal of distance, I now see that I was crawling inside those books and hiding. From my fears. From my pain. From the reality of autism.

On the one hand, I didn’t really feel the need to read yet another book on the subject. Except this one is by Steve Silberman. And that makes all the difference in the world.


As a longtime contributor and editor at Wired magazine, Steve Silberman is a science writer with whom I was already familiar. His pieces have appeared just about everywhere, and he had already written brilliantly about autism. So how I could I not dig into his book?

This one tops them all. Steve Silberman digs deep into the disorder’s sometimes difficult past in order to uncover why it has remained so misunderstood for so long. He writes with passion and clarity, drawing in the reader swiftly. It’s long. It’s really long. But not in the Nathaniel Hawthorne or Henry David Thoreau kind of way. More in the type of really thorough way a journalist approaches a story; the complete background of every individual mentioned in the book is provided. At some length. As if the author wants to make certain that he gives a full picture lest one missing detail detract from the story.

Trigger alert: there are several passages describing some of the awful “treatments” used on patients with autism in the past. The kind that will make you sick-to-your-stomach. Those passages were extraordinarily difficult to read. But they are part of the disorder’s history; Silberman would have been doing a disservice by omitting its dark record.

The reviews for Silberman’s tome have been overwhelmingly positive. That’s because it’s a really good book. And one that will, I hope, bring about better understanding of those who live life somewhere on the autism spectrum.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Judy 26 August 2015 @ 7:13 am at 7:13 am

Rebecca, I’m not sure how or when I found your blog. The mysteries of the Internet univers, I guess. I read them and are always touched. I’m passing along a friends link to you. She travels the world teaching sensory integration to those occupational therapists that work with autistic kids. She is also a wonderful photographer who has taken moving portraits of some of the kids she has met along the way. (Which will soon be a book)

I’m paying attention to the small voice inside me to pass this info along to you. Blessings to you and your family.


2 Steve Silberman 26 August 2015 @ 6:58 pm at 6:58 pm

Rebecca: Thank you so much for this jewel of a review! I’m really grateful.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: