On the Bookseller’s Bookshelf

journal of best practices
“The only thing to know is how to use your neuroses.” This Arthur Adamov quote starts off David Finch’s new memoir on Asperger’s Syndrome, The Journal of Best Practices. The quote is a perfect choice to start the book, because it highlights one truth: we all have neuroses. Some  have descriptions in the DSM-IV; some are written off as small quirks. But we all have something that makes our interaction with the world unique, and that’s what makes Finch’s story of his attempt to re-navigate his world so compelling.

David Finch didn’t know he had Asperger’s until five years into his marriage. For his whole life, he’d struggled with behaviors he tried to hide, but he never really knew how unusual some of his thought patterns were. “The fact that I used to sit around in my car and punch myself in the face after a rough night of Scattergories should have been a clear indication that something was amiss,” he writes. But he didn’t recognize the signs. He didn’t know.

He experienced his eventual diagnosis with incredible relief, and he aggressively (a little too aggressively, at times) set about changing his life. In particular, he focused on his marriage, making notes about things he could do to live in harmony with his family. Some of those things, like listening to his wife and engaging with his kids, were big. Some, like folding laundry or making breakfast, seemed smaller. All of them made their way into his notebook, called The Journal of Best Practices.

Finch tells his story with refreshing sincerity and honesty. Instead of seeming embarrassed that he’s different, he’s eager to find ways to interact with others. He’s also very funny, pointing out the absurdity not only in the way he interacts with life, but also with the world in general.

What I love about the book, and why I think it’s a great read independent of the Asperger’s aspect, is the way Finch starts to heal the problems in his relationship. He doesn’t first look at his his wife’s problems; he doesn’t even look for deep issues in their dynamic as a couple. Instead, he starts with himself. He’s relentless in learning how his behavior, whether it’s right or wrong, might effect people around him. I think we might all have better relationships if we approached problems in our friendships, families and marriages, more like that.

Carrie Rollwagen is co-owner and book buyer at Church Street Coffee & Books.



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