Book Cover Reading Together, What if the entire community read the same book at the same time? Kalamazoo Public Library
Book Cover

Discussion Questions

  1. Though not "diagnosed" by the author, Christopher can be seen as someone who has high-functioning autism or Asperger's Syndrome. What are some questions and insights that arise from Christopher's fascinating and often profound way of understanding the world? How does this novel affect how you consider others whose mental capacities might not at first seem "normal"?
  2. In loving relationships and meaningful experiences, we often speak of being "touched" and "touching" others. Given Christopher's aversion to being touched, how does he experience his parents' love for him? With whom and what does he form attachments? What kinds of love bind the characters?
  3. Why does Christopher like math and logic so much? How do the diagrams, maps and equations throughout the book help to order his story?
  4. Why is lying such an alien concept to Christopher? Why do "normal" human beings in the novel, like Christopher's parents, find metaphors and lies so indispensable? Why is the idea of truth so central to Christopher's narration? What would have made it hard for the father to tell Christopher the truth? Should his father have told him the truth?
  5. How do Christopher's conversations with Siobhan, his teacher, compare with his conversations with his father and his mother? How does her relation to Christopher open up possibilities not easily available to his parents?
  6. Christopher's parents, with their affairs, their arguments, and their passionate rages, are clearly in the grip of emotions they can't fully understand or control, while Christopher himself cannot comprehend the passions that drive other people. How does this affect family dynamics? How does a stressed family cope with challenges?
  7. Why does Christopher use color-coded decisions to make the world simpler? Which aspects of his life does he find unbearably complicated or stressful? What techniques do you use to order the chaotic aspects of your world?
  8. What do Christopher's discussions about God and the afterlife contribute to the story? How do concrete and scientific ways of understanding the world find a place in various faith traditions?
  9. Christopher tells us all we need to know about his condition without actually calling it autism or Asperger's syndrome. Why do you think Haddon avoids giving Christopher a diagnostic label? How do labels affect how we interact with one another?
  10. Christopher's journey to London underscores the challenges he has being on his own in the world. What is most frightening or moving about this section of the novel? How could our own community be more welcoming and safe for people with autism?
  11. How is Christopher a typical teenager? How is he different? How might we promote understanding and appreciation for the differences among us?
  12. How is Christopher changed by the series of experiences he describes in the novel? How does he grow? How do you imagine his future?
  13. In many ways, the novel addresses the journey from initial trauma and disconnection to potential hope and re-connection. In reading the novel, what did you find hopeful? What light does Christopher's and his family's journey shed on the conditions necessary for bringing people with such different ways of experiencing the world back together?
  14. What did you learn about yourself by reading this novel? What emotions did you experience while reading it? How has this book changed you?
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Past Books

2006: The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien2005: The Color of Water, by James McBride2004: Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich2003: Fehrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
   Questions? Contact Joan Hawxhurst: or (269) 553-7913.