By Lily Rothman
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.

Write to Lily Rothman at


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