Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris on the Tonight Show on September 17, 2013 NBC Photo Bank / Getty Images

Neil Patrick Harris Is Winning the Celeb Memoir Game

May 21, 2014

If you thought that autobiographies are supposed to be about the writer's life, Neil Patrick Harris wants you to think again: the actor announced this week that Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography will arrive in October. In a tongue-in-cheek statement calling it a "revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative," he plugs the retelling of his childhood, acting career, decision to come out and celebrity encounters, all in the second person.

Joycean-ness aside, it's far from the first non-kids' book to sub in "you" for "I." As Graeme McMillan pointed out for TIME last year, when Hawaii Five-O did a choose-your-own plotline, the CYOA format has been having a bit of a renaissance. The original children's book series, which used a format invented by a lawyer who told flexible tales to his children, lasted from 1979 till 1988; it became the fourth most successful children's book series out there. In the 2000s, some of the originals were reprinted, and in 2010 the original creator helped launch a digital version of the format. More recently, there was a choose-your-own Hamlet project funded by Kickstarter.

Still, NPH: CYOA is fairly revolutionary within the category, and not just because there are no other "choose your own"-titled books in's autobiography/memoir section. The celeb-memoir field is a crowded one, and standing out usually requires dishing enough dirt to cause a scandal. But Harris has found a way to differentiate his book without necessarily getting gossipy, which is a winning — no pun intended — choice.

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