Book review: What I Want to Talk About

What I Want to Talk About: How Autistic Special Interests Shape a Life by Pete Wharmby. Reviewed by Holly Sutherland

Date published: September 2022


Paperback price: £13.99

Link to book on Amazon website

Reviewer: Holly Sutherland

Reviewer expertise: Autistic PhD researcher


What is the book about and who is the book aimed at?

With this book for readers of all neurotypes, Wharmby has achieved what many autistic people dream of – finding a captive audience with whom to discuss, at length, his special interests.

A brief description of the content of the book

Covering everything from LEGO to palaeontology to Minecraft to the Titanic, What I Want to Talk About is an absolute tour de force of the depth and breadth of knowledge that autistic special interests can bring. Paired with Wharmby’s extremely readable writing style and dry, occasionally self-deprecating humour, this all leads to a book that’s both easy and deeply enjoyable to read.

Is the content in line with best practice/research evidence?

Though this book is aimed at all readers, there’s something especially lovely about reading it as an autistic person. I too was obsessed with dinosaurs as a kid; I too spent a long time conceiving of social interactions using The Sims as a mental metaphor. Whilst I am by no means claiming these are universal autistic experiences (or autism-only experiences!), I do suspect that any autistic reader will get at least one or two of those delightful little sparks of self-recognition whilst reading.

Would the book be helpful to its target reader? If so, how? Would it be helpful to anyone else?

There’s still plenty for non-autistic readers, though. Aforementioned readability aside, there’s no small amount of gentle autism education dispensed throughout. This is frequently accompanied by stories from throughout Wharmby’s life that give a personal, non-clinical, and deeply humanising look into what existing as an autistic person – especially an undiagnosed autistic person – is like.

What is your final, overall opinion on the book?

In summary: this is a truly charming, delightful book that I really enjoyed reading. The variety of knowledge, the autobiographical anecdotes, and the general dry wit on display are truly a treat.