Read The Selected Works Of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen Online


T.S. Spivet is a 12-year-old genius mapmaker who lives on a ranch in Montana. His father is a silent cowboy and his mother is a scientist who for the last twenty years has been looking for a mythical species of beetle. His brother has gone, his sister seems normal but might not be, and his dog – Verywell – is going mad.It’s odd, but then families are. T.S. makes sense of iT.S. Spivet is a 12-year-old genius mapmaker who lives on a ranch in Montana. His father is a silent cowboy and his mother is a scientist who for the last twenty years has been looking for a mythical species of beetle. His brother has gone, his sister seems normal but might not be, and his dog – Verywell – is going mad.It’s odd, but then families are. T.S. makes sense of it all by drawing beautiful, meticulous maps kept in innumerable colour-coded notebooks: maps of the countryside, maps of his family’s behaviour, maps of animal and plant life. He is brilliant, and the Smithsonian Institution agrees, though when they telephone with news that he has won a major scientific prize they don’t suspect for a minute that he is twelve years old.So begins T.S.’s life-changing adventure, fleeing in the dead of night, riding freight trains two thousand miles across America – how else do 12-year-olds get to Washington D.C.? – to reach the awards dinner, the fame, the secret-society membership and the TV appearances that beckon. But is this what he wants? Do maps and lists explain the world? And why are adults so strange?The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet is a story like no other: exhilarating, funny, endlessly charming and unbearably poignant. It is a journey through life’s mysteries great and small, and about how on earth a boy with a telescope, four compasses and a theodolite should set about solving them....

Title : The Selected Works Of T.S. Spivet
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781846552786
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 374 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Selected Works Of T.S. Spivet Reviews

  • James
    2019-01-10 10:40

    I first found Mr. T.S. Spivet, geographer-savant, while browsing an airport bookstore. Secretly, I was hoping to find something I could download to my Sony eReader, but found myself hopelessly bound to the hardback copy of Larsen's debut novel due to its ingenious inclusion of hundreds of sketches taken from the protagonist's notebooks and journals. Upon reading, I became enraptured at once by the language, the setting, and the powerful characters. By page 103, I knew I had found a new favorite book of 2009 and was already making notes for my 5-star rating on Goodreads. If only I had stopped there. To be true to the method of the book, I have included my own sketch of what happened to me while reading it.The Y-axis shows the stars I intended to give the book, the X-axis plots the number of pages I read. You can clearly see that by the end, I was close to giving the book one star, but have chosen to go with two just because I still recall fondly the affection I held for it up through the first hundred pages. Where to start? Firstly, bravo to Mr. Larsen for crafting such a spectacular setting in the wide-open Montana sky and filling it with a backstory that just begged for revelation. I am still in awe of many passages and literary devices included, not the least of which is the allegorical use of the Continental Divide. Impressive.However, while I admire Mr. Larsen's MFA from Columbia, it evidently only provided 103 pages of literary training because the book fails to deliver on all that richness. As my sketch indicates, there was a golden moment at around page 300 when it appeared that the author intended to reveal a meta-story -- an explanation for why so much magic and serendipity could transpire in the life of a single individual. I began to salivate over the possibilities, certain the the author would redeem himself. He did not. Or if he did, I totally missed it. Either way, I am saddened. Here's what I wanted to have happen (sans spoilers of any kind):I imagined we'd find that the tragic family incident that haunts the book so effectively in the first act would turn out to be much more complex than we had imagined. That perhaps, the protagonist had also been involved in some way as to not escape injury and that the elaborate implausibilty of the book would represent his journey through his own self-understanding as he either joined his loved one in death or made the choice not to. If you've read the book, you just might understand what I am saying. If not, solicit Mr. Larsen for permission for me to write the ending I hoped for. I would start on, say, page 319. P.S. - I will be reading whatever Mr. Larsen writes next because this book had so much potential, I'm sure he'll find his way to paying it off next time 'round. Sure as shootin', pardner.

  • Peter
    2018-12-31 12:40

    I started this book ravenously--Science! Youth! Grief!--then I lost momentum. Then I fell into it again--Adventure! Bloodshed! Secret Societies!--then I became cynical about it. (One character says, “Grief, youth, science… People are so goddamn predictable. I should write a book about how to suckerpunch people into caring.”) When I finally finished it, I put it down with a fair respect for both its accomplishments and its shortcomings.Here’s the hook: 12-year-old cartographer genius Tecumseh Sparrow (TS) Spivet goes on an adventure and fills the margins of his story with notes and illustrations that offer clever visual representations of verbal information. Compelling!Here’s the rub: TS lives with his parents—who are as one-dimensional a cowboy and scientist as can be; Dad rarely speaks without apostrophes, and Mom rarely retreats from her work—and his sister, who teenybops through most of her time on the page. They all live with the shadow of Layton, TS’ younger brother who died in a gun accident. These and other characters develop little. In fact, I’m not sure there are any real people in this novel. Boo!But the adventure and dramatic scenarios are enjoyable just the same: We quickly learn that TS has won a great prize from the Smithsonian for his drawing portfolio, and the novel recounts the story of his solo adventure to DC, which leads to our revelations and his surprising discoveries about his family. (But how old is TS when he tells the story? The voice never quite settles down.)The story takes three parts, and their differences evoke a kind of structural schizophrenia:The first section (“The West”) reads like a character-driven novel set in the mountains of Montana. (Is that redundant? Mountains of Montana?) TS navigates his gruff and silent father, his meticulous and officious mother, his irritable and angst-ridden sister, and the demons of his brother’s death. His charts and diagrams make us see everything in new ways, but still we wonder what makes this family fit together. This could be a novel in itself.But then we’re off! The second section (“The Crossing”) lulls us into the genealogy of the Spivet family and the emptiness of the Great Plains. Stolen notebooks read like historical fiction and the ennui of the plains turns into a wormhole. Suddenly there’s magical realism and life-threatening bloodshed. Action! Alas, however, the diagrams become less interesting and less profound.And then the third section (“The East”) juices us with a secret society thriller that reads like a cross between teen fiction and political diatribe: teenagers navigate secret tunnels between governmental halls of power, adults bicker senselessly like children while hatching plans against the president and his administration, mysterious characters from TS’ journey impossibly turn out to have been insiders all along. What?! Suddenly, Plot cashes out and Suspension of Disbelief asks us for a loan the size of the national debt. The more pages I turned, the more I wanted to know what happened next, but the more the mystery-thriller undercut what little serious interest I had in TS and his family as characters.What saves The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet for me are the wonderful verbal/visual puzzles, the occasional moment of literary sleight-of-hand (the sparrows! The worm hole! The subtle foreshadowing!), and, of course: science, youth, and grief. Reading parts of this was truly electric, even if it doesn't fully redeem characters I don’t believe in and an inconsistent frame for the narrative at large.Do I recommend it? Yes, for escape on a rainy day.Would I teach it? Not likely, though I might excerpt some passages and pictures.Related Texts: Pale Fire; The Da Vinci Code, Illustrated Edition; The Answer is Always YesLasting impressions: Boy genius, broken family, secret society thriller. The Selected Works of TS Spivetwants to be everything, but it doesn’t fully succeed. Along the way, however, it does elicit some moments of emotional pull, and it entertains us and opens up new possibilities for the novel. That's no mean feat.

  • Amanda
    2019-01-05 16:41

    There are some books that touch me more than others, some characters that I love to love and love to hate.But nothing and no one has made my heart ache the way this book has. In this book, Reif Larsen has created a story so beautiful in its simplicity and at the same time, filled with layers and layers of complexity. This book reminds me of ancient artifacts, items handled with loving care through time, to be held in your hands with reverence and wonder that something can last so long and be so important.The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet is a journey, both personal and literal. T.S. Spivet, the plucky 12-year old cartographer, sets off on an adventure across the country to get to the Smithsonian to give a speech. We, as readers, journey through T.S.'s mind and life, and the journey is wondrous. We come in contact with his family, his ancestors, the strangers he meets, and the places he sees. And we come to know T.S., which is perhaps, one of the most rewarding parts of this book.T.S. is a twelve year old mapmaker, raised on an isolated Montana ranch. He views the world through the eyes of a map maker, wishing to chart and depict everything he sees. And he does. His sidebars show us his diagrams of Gracie shucking corn, of his father's facial expressions, of the amount of 12 year old boys pinching honey nut cheerios at the same time. His take on the world is refreshing, seen through the analytical eyes of a scientist with the curiosity of a young boy and the heart of a lonely one. I love T.S. because he has an artless way of viewing life, analyzing it, confused when it doesn't add up, but nevertheless smiles and enjoys it. He never gives into his fear, always facing everything as it comes. He puts himself on a train, faces threatening hobos, and the sea of 783 eyes that all claim to know more than him. His bravery amazes me, his wit amuses me, and his loneliness breaks my heart. I felt simultaneous tugs of sadness and ruefulness at his map of loneliness, complete with earbuds and a caption that says you're not alone. He has an insight into the little rituals of our reality that makes me want to laugh and cry.We journey with T.S., through his past with the diary of his ancestor, Emma Osterville Engelthorpe, and through the ditry bowels of Chicago to the revered halls of the Smithsonian. Once there, T.S. questions the world as we know it, raising questions and showing the pompous scientists that this little boy has more wisdom than they even know. He makes some of the most profound observations and with the simplicity and beauty that only children achieve. He learns about celebrity and thingymabobs and his father and mother, he learns about secret societies and homesickness.This book is a rich experience, from start to end, and one of my favorites. For the first time in my life, I deliberately lingered over a book, savoring the words Larsen puts on the pages. Each character and moment is lovingly handcrafted and really shows a depth to writing that so few authors achieve. I didn't do the book any justice at all, but it truly is a glorious book to be read again and again.Several months later, 1st ReRead: Amazing. This book could never disappoint me. The second time around, I'm discovering tiny magical details, making new connections, and enjoying it all over again.

  • Rebecca McNutt
    2019-01-08 12:36

    The tremendously quirky characters in this story alone were enough to make me give it five stars, but there are so many themes that the book addresses, like not selling your soul for prestige, making new friends and dealing with the past instead of running from it.

  • Paul Bryant
    2018-12-18 13:36

    You might think that novel readers would be pretty immune to the scourge of looksism (if you haven’t got the looks you ism worth my time) which saturates the rest of the entertainment biz. There is the lure of the pretty cover, of course – who doesn’t want to be seen in public with this on your arm Rather than thisBut we aren’t like 14, we have better reasons when we choose our novels than just the sexy covers, don’t we? Yeah, sure we do. We’ve half-read a review somewhere or somebody mentioned that they liked this or wasn’t it on tv? And isn’t the author married to somebody? I think it won an award. It’s got a good title. All good reasons to read a novel.But I ended up with The Selected Works of T.S.Spivet out of pure looksism. It’s so pretty. It pretends to be by this brilliant 12 year old boy who “maps” everything, i.e. makes beautiful quasi-scientific diagrams of everything – My First Inertia Experiment, Drainage Patterns in the Stubborn Bitterroots, Father Drinks Whiskey with a Sensational Degree of Regularity, etc etc, – so the whole large-sized book is crammed with gorgeous marginalia, little digressions, flocks of birds irrupting from the south west corner, exploded diagrams of cars, genealogies, on and on. This makes the in-store browsing of the book a rare delight, but the actual reading of the book as slow as a snail with bad shoes and a poor attitude.But also – I found out that not only the format was cute but the characters were cute and the story was cute too. It began to be – aarrgghhhh can’t breathe…cute overload…cute overload… . You have this family with the boy genius, his 16 year old sassy sister, his tragic brother, his cowboy father and his scientist mother who he calls Dr. Clair. There’s a dog called Verywell upon whom several pages are expended. The boy goes on a quest. Uh oh. This is all beginning to look like a mashup of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the Glass Family stories. As I read I could tell the numerous quirky incidents and digressions where I was supposed to feel the love for this novel, they weren’t hard to miss, but I did not feel the love for this novel, I felt the massive irritation. Our narrator is a 12 year old windbag. He thinks everything is interesting. He never shuts up. He never uses one word where a bucketful will do. Everything is not interesting however. I knew that. But I must learn - once again - that looks aren’t everything.

  • Nathan
    2018-12-18 15:32

    I've still got a few pages to dust up here. But the Review was written hundreds of pages ago. So, let's go. 'sides, it'll be short and sweet.This novel has very little to recommend it (view spoiler)[I take that back just a little bit ; you might get a copy for your thirteen=year=old daughter in order to introduce the Encyclopedic Novel to her why not --> (view spoiler)[ and don't forget this branch of the Shandian Spawn :: "...and some formally innovative YA novels by the likes ofSusie Day,E. Lockhart, andLauren Myracle." (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)]. Mostly just the wonderful Book Design. And so as always --> credit where due ::Book design and typography by Ben GibsonThe illustrations were created by Ben Gibson and Reif Larsen except [...] which were created by Martie Holmer and Ben Gibson and are based on the author's original drawings.Moby-Dick map created by Ben Gibson Should have his name on the frontcover but too frequently even translators go under=credited. Further, in case you miss it there on the back inside flappy thingy of the dj, "Jacket illustration of sparrow skeleton by Jeff Middleton". You'll see a blurb on the backcover by Stephen King. Which is warning enough. No but the book really is a nice object and might be worth picking up for that alone. But despite one of the characters apparently being rather opposed to "mediocrity" (The Mother declares :: "Mediocrity is a fungus of the mind" which is itself of course a pretty mediocre thing to say. What wouldn't be?), well, the novel never rises anywhere close to above mediocrity. And too (sometimes you just want to chuckle over the mis=match of form (how it is said) and content (what is declared as true)) there's the whole thing about how awful the Miss USA thingy is because there's no talent portion and it's all focused on women's appearance and nothing about her intelligence and scientific endeavors. Because (I know I know the book's about this twelve=year=old here, but still...) the book's got only just that one thing going for it. It's pretty. [And but if you find yourself attracted to the book's various musings and ponderings, being tempted to quote them, please remember, the novel's narrator is a 12 year old boy.]The movie is not to be recommended either.* But if you just have to, because I suppose you might be a fan of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, look for it under the title "The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet". It really does suck. And not just because it turns our young hero from a master=draftsman & Cartographer into the inventor of the perpetual motion machine, but because it's just pretty awful. * Some of you interested in censorship and this kind of issue, though, maybe might have an interest in the movie. The Union Pacific gets turned into something like "American Railway" and McDonald's gets turned into a Hot Dog Stand. Now, this probably isn't censorship, but probably simply acknowledgement that neither UP nor McD's paid the producers to advertise for them. But then, why no revenue stream for the novel which does much to promote both brands? Yes, yes, I know this is what "PoMo" does with all the pop=cult "references" and yadda yadda yadda. But, please do note that the truck which picks up the kid is still clearly branded as a Kenworth. Do you think Kenworth paid their promotional fee? Or does the average Franco-Canadian-Australian filmmaker not even recognize Kenworth as a brand? In which case, Kenworth better start up and start branding** itself in the public's eye.....** I didn't watch this, but the title leapt out at me 'Think Branding, with Google - Conference Keynote - "Branding in the New Normal"' :: is more my speed ::-->WARNING<--- :: "Comments MAY BE disabled for this video due to Vegan=Militants."

  • Tim
    2019-01-14 16:16

    This book has great shelf appeal. It's got a gazillion illustrations ostensibly by our first-person narrator, a 12-year-old cartographer and technical illustrator from Montana—in bygone days he would be a naturalist—living with an entomologist mom, a bronco-busting dad, a sister older than her years, and the memory of a dead brother. The prose reveals a quirky character and rewards slow going.But here's the problem: I'm only a couple dozen pages in and there are mistakes. It could be the problems of producing a complicated book. But if the nature of our protagonist is to be meticulous, and we have every reason to believe that it is, you gotta get the first chapter cold, I don't care how many sets of galleys. The other, delicious possibility is that Reif Larsen is setting us up with an unreliable narrator. Ooooh, that would be great. But I worry. So let me list the ones I find here:Page 4, Geometry.I had once tried lining maps on the south wall of my room, but in my excitement to organize, I briefly forgot that this was where the entrance to my room was located...The thing is, the door is on the north wall of the room. Not a big problem except that we spend half of page 3—the first page in the book—orienting the room, including drawing a map of it, on which we see the locations of his various colors of notebooks. Note! August 2011, 2 years later: I saw a paperback edition of this book on a shelf in a bookstore, and, thinking about this problem, checked out the opening. Now it says the maps were on the north side of the room! So somebody cared enough to fix the mistake. Well done!Page 11: forteGracie was a misunderstood actress sharpening her forté...Hmmm. If this kid is pedantic, he'll spell it without the accent, because it's originally pronounced fort. It's French, the stiff part of a foil, not Italian for loud. This is not so egregious asPage 11: PiratesWe hear that Gracie was "probably miraculous as the pirate's wife" in her high-school production of Pirates of Penzance. Well. There is no "pirate's wife." There are wards in chancery, of which Mabel is the star, and of course Ruth, the "piratical maid of all-work." So again: did Larsen leave these in because the 12-year-old would not get them right, or did he screw up and not do his homework? I hope it's the former!(Now, having finished)I'd say the book largely lives up to its promise, but (a) the unreliable-narrator problems mentioned here don't get resolved and (b) the last, oh, quarter of the book fails us, becoming too black-and-white and losing its focus on TS's amazing voice. It's kind of like the arc of Nicholas Cage's movie career.

  • Jacob
    2019-01-06 15:22

    When the Smithsonian decides to award genius cartographer T. S. Spivet the presitigious but little-known Baird Award, they are completely unaware that young T. S.--short for Tecumseh Sparrow--is actually a twelve-year-old prodigy addicted to mapping everything, from family dinner conversations to Loneliness on the streets of Chicago. The Smithsonian also doesn't know that T. S. has no way of getting to Washington, D.C. from his family's Montana ranch, but that doesn't stop him from hopping a train and taking up the life of a hobo to fulfill his young life's dream of visiting the greatest museum in the country. From Montana to D.C. and to the halls of the Smithsonian, T. S. maps his progress in strange and inventive ways, detailing his discovery of secret hobo networks in Pocatello, wormholes in the Midwest, and an encounter with a knife-wielding prophet in Chicago.I tend to ignore debut works and authors that get a lot of press as the Best New Thing (because let's face it, there are plenty of older books yet to be read), so I'm not sure why I added this to my to-read list when I heard about it. Maybe the title caught my attention, even though I secretly thought it was going to be something smug and pretentious. Either way, despite my hesitation, The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet was a great read. T. S. was far too charming to dislike, and the illustrations on every page made for an entertaining and interesting read. Ran into a bit of trouble near the end--the conclusion was way too abrupt and sudden, and some of the dealings of the secret society (though amusing) seemed a bit farfetched--but overall, this book was a huge surprise. If this is Larsen's first novel, I can't wait to see what he does next.

  • Danica
    2018-12-16 14:28

    Well, what do you know. After a string of bedazzling reads (Crowley, Dunnett, and Murray), my disillusionment with contemporary lit continues apace.A twelve year old genius cartographer with a quirky and symbolic name has blah blah adventures on a train en route to picking up a prize at the Smithsonian which he is too young to have honestly qualified for (meaning: misinformation was entered on the official application form. mothers were mislead. important people were lied to!) and for which he has squirreled himself away on a cross-continental choo-choo trip without telling anyone in his family. On the way to an utterly predictable ending, this adorable child ruminates about many things, including his Tragic Past, his unloving parents, his dwindling stash of carrot sticks and raisins, and the inanimate objects with which he occasionally holds conversations.Are we getting a read on how precious this all is? Yes?CHIEF AMONG MY COMPLAINTS:- That age old trick of omitting mention of a Tragic Occurrence so devastating, so catastrophic, that it ejects the brokenhearted narrator from his grief-riven family and propels him two thousand miles across the country on a hobo-hopping train adventure until the very end of the story, which, incidentally, is when everything else is coming to a head, so as to maximize dramatic impact and wring a tear from my dry miser's eye. Seriously I can just feel these writers doing the literary equivalent of those algebraic equations your 9th grade pre-calculus teacher used to pile onto your desk*. Which is not bad, in and of itself, but when the import of the story is inadequately translated, the framing and the braces and the exposed rivets come into view. And when your insubstantive content fails to cover up the artificiality of your story-telling, well, then, guess what? Belief falls all to pieces. I'm hesitant to blame this on MFA programs, but I do think the failure of certain 'literary' books is not helped by cloistered classroom settings where everyone is looking for the quick emotional fix and the quickest way to secure it is to resort to age-old techniques that have received the institutional imprimateur. You may ask: is technique the problem here? I do think so, but it is not sufficient by itself to make a mess of things. The employment of a tiringly overused narrative strategy is also compounded by how emotionally thin this story is. It does not push your boundaries. Nothing really menaces the main character. Stakes are piddling. Characters are quirky, but their quirks are poor masks for their hollowed out interiors. Larsen has one ace up his sleeve, and once that's spent, he's done. And that's when he brings in the ridiculous revelations and the deus ex machina endings. What was it that Chabon once wrote? Stories that glitter all over with "epiphanic dew". I mean, I totally dig epiphanic dew. I down epiphanic dew by the vat, I read so much. But done badly, and/or in ways that feel like, been-there-seen-that? Just, no.- The multiple things that are thrown in there just for funsies sake but never really explained, developed, or made to contribute anything significant to the advancement of the plot or to the growth of various characters. For example: random wormholes! Secret scientific societies! Oh so his mom knew all along?? - The themes and/or plot events that are developed are conventional, banal, easy: Washington's scientific establishment, previously enshrined in Spivet's mind as a place of monkish learning and ascetic devotion to matters of the mind, is full of money-grubbers and cynical fame whores. People, like tobocco-chewing cab drivers, are not what they seem. Family love prevails over all! Home is where the heart is. And on and on, ad nauseam.And yes, I do think the >:(-ness of my response does have something to do with how I felt betrayed by this book's initial promise. At least its premise was interesting; at least the first 50-100 pages were really cute. Despite my complaints, Larsen does this vulnerable boy-voice very, very well. It is more than occasionally diverting. It is clever! But the story never really builds itself into something meaningful, or moving. Hence, disappointment.Oh, god, guys. Obviously this means I have to take refuge in nonfiction (BUT THERE ARE SO MANY BOOKS, IN SO MANY CATEGORIES. I don't know where to start!), fanfiction, or classics written two hundred years ago. *For example: John has 300 feet of lumber to frame a rectangular snake-pen, which he plans on filling with a festering nest of poisonous African bush vipers, plus an additional 200 feet of brick for his collection of feral mongoose. He wants to maximize the area of his playpen, but because of the animosity between his pets cannot afford to group them all into one enclosure. Due to the constraints imposed on his property by the city's infuriatingly byzantine zoning codes, he is also only able to construct pens which are twice as long in length as they are in width. What should the dimensions of the areas be? Show how the maximum area of the pens are calculated from a host of algebraic equations...

  • Margaret
    2019-01-08 10:16

    What a charming idea: Brilliant 12-year old boy "maps" his way through life, with the book including many of these maps and other illustrations in the margin. In theory, a Tom Sawyer-esque tail of adventurous travel from Montana to Washington, D.C.Well, in reality, not so charming, not so entertaining, something of a slog, and as the illustrations most often come with writing, really a novel with footnotes. One needs to be careful with these... If the writer is to drag the reader away from the story, please make it worth our while. Clocking in at 350+ pages, the book is both way too wordy (for Pete's sake, do editors even edit any more? Do they take stands against blah-blah-blah?) and underwritten - um, plot please? Well, interesting, flesh it out and not just provide every written thought and internal digression, please?Frankly, 2 stars is generous, and only b/c the illustrations, as annoying as they are, are lovely. As for this being a genius 12-year old speaking, no, I don't think so. I have a 12-year old boy. He's smart enough, but, no, it's a stretch to think that they have such boring internal lives.

  • Leni
    2019-01-15 13:29

    I have to admit I didn't think I would like this book that much because I had it at home a long time, started it twice before finally reading it through and I really liked it!T.S. is a great boy and his maps are amazing! I love how the book was fiction but still mentioned science.I would recoment it to anyone who enjoys science, great maps and exiting road trips :)

  • Cynthia
    2019-01-11 09:27

    The first half of this book is some of the best fiction i've EVER read. The characters are interesting and believable but quirky, the setting is beautiful, the situation they're in is moving. There are these luscious rich maps and drawings and sidebars that you read with loving tenderness and joy, and that really move the plot along. And then halfway through the whole thing just turns into drivel. The main character's personality disappears and you begin to feel like you're reading the author's Twitter tweets. There is no longer any plot; in fact, the author/hero starts quoting extensively from the fictional diary of his fictional grandmother, which his mother has been either writing or reading (it's never made clear). Suddenly you're no longer reading about this interesting quirky kid with a kind of complex tangled family life and a lot of grief from his 10-year-old brother shooting himself; you're reading about a woman geologist in the 1840s and how hard it is for women to be scientists. AND you're trapped in a Winnebago going crosscountry on the flatbed of a train. The main character describes what feels like every possible moment of boredom he experiences as he sits in this Winnebago. He even describes what it's like to take a shower in a cold Winnebago bathroom (zzzz). And then all this incredibly improbable and frankly pretty boring and dumb stuff happens. At this point, even the sidebars and drawings and maps become dumb and pointless. All the family members basically disappear and never really reappear. None of the issues brought up in the first half of the novel are resolved. And the last chapter and the novels' ending are just... pathetic. Sorry to be so angry. But I'd say this: read the first half of this novel, definitely. And then when it starts to devolve (believe me, you'll know it when it happens), just put it down. You won't be missing anything.

  • Sibyl
    2019-01-04 08:26

    The story of a 12 year-old making his way from Montana to D.C. to accept an award? Not the usual fiction on my reading list. Yet reading Reif Larsen's first novel had me engaged from beginning to end. I may have been pursuaded about the value of his work after listening to his interview with Diane Riehm ( But really, I appreciate the introduction to new authors and am drawn to first works. T. S. Spivet as brought to life by Reif Larsen was not a disappointment. I do not see how this book can effectively be transitioned into an audio book though. It requires the marginalia drawn on most every page. To understand what T. S. means when he describes his obsession for 'mapping' it really is necessary to see his many 'maps.' Certainly there are many geographic maps, but also there are maps of what a well-appointed table setting looks like if you are attending a very formal dinner; there are maps showing facial expressions to help determine what grimaces of the lips, eyes, forehead mean; maps of geneology necessary to the understanding of the story T. S. tells.Because I have a friend who is train-loving, train-riding finatic, the leg of the trip from Divide, Montana to Chicago was not only realistic, but was also fascinating. Descriptions of the yards the train stopped in along the way, the types of characters encountered, the satisfaction of T. S. riding in a Winnebago? These were delights.I will stop here hoping that this review has intrigued the reader into checking out the book. I gave my best friend a copy for her birthday. My copy goes back to my library, but I am considering purchasing it for my permanent library.

  • Martin
    2018-12-19 08:14

    The illustrations in the margins are ingenious, yes, and I don't believe I've ever held a prettier book in my hands. From the cover, the drawings, the colors, it's amazing. And now to the hard part.I feel like this book had a lot of potential. It started off amazingly, it picked up great momentum once our hero got on the train.... and then it wasted 1/3 of the book a side-story of Emma and her life, which I thought was completely unnecessary and had no place in the book. If the pages of this story were used for a couple more of T.S.' adventures as he traveled, using his cartography skills and encountering strange new people and situations, putting his own science/statistics spin on them; and if more thought was given to the entire "adventure" part of the book, it would have been simply extraordinary.But with this, I feel like it is a hit and miss.It is, however, still a good book, worth reading, with rich characters, whom you get learn about through the side illustrations and notes as if you really knew them in real life. In some part it gets a certain grotesque and mysterious atmosphere, which I felt as a slight nod to Kafka, but alas, it is never explained. The story simply goes on. What's with the wormholes? The secret society and their weird mission? A lot of points are left unresolved and make you feel as if you read half a book. But maybe it's just the perspective of T.S. thrown into this crazy world where nothing is explained to him, since he is just a child. Maybe it's that. I really don't know.

  • Jasmine
    2018-12-30 16:32

    I have been bored out of my mind for the last week. Weirdly the thing that I remember most from my 9 years of playing the clarinet is what Mr. Granholm told me about the end of a concert. It people clap immediately after a song ends that is a terrible sign. It means that they were waiting for the song to end. (Think clapping between movements). you want them to wait because they are so into the music that they are shocked that it has ended. Well I was waiting for this book to end basically from the first moment. First of all the only particularly interesting characters were Layton, and T.E. Spivet who are basically ignored completely. In fact the only moment I really liked was on the last page. I think this is another book like hugo Caberet that people got excited about because it looks funny. Honestly format doesn't make a book. This book turns out to be endlessly boring. the story just isn't good and the pictures aren't much. I am now going to stop before I get too mean and return it to he library where it is already requested by another poor sod.

  • Jonathan
    2019-01-03 15:37

    I can only hope that when Reif Larsen writes his second novel that it can compete with this one. The plot is simple: A 12 year old map making genius wins a prestigious award from the Smithsonian, and runs away from his home in Montana in order to travel across the country and claim it. The adventures of T.S. Spivet as he navigates his way both in a physical sense from Montana to Washington D.C., and in a mental sense through his interactions with mystifying adults as well as with his own bizarre family life kept the pace of this book brisk. T.S.'s "selected works" which appear as samples of his maps printed in the margins of the book were a clever way to show the reader Spivet's cartographic talents. I had the sensation at the end of this book of wanting to read more about T.S., but at the same time hoping there would never be any kind of sequel as it could only diminish my impressions of the protagonist. I would easily recommend reading this enjoyable and engrossing book.

  • Anne
    2019-01-15 16:29

    Here we have one of the most unique and extraordinary debut novels I have ever come across, the author Reif Larsens is a 27 year old American and this novel caused one of the biggest bidding wars by publishers in history - resulting in a £1m price tag for the publishers.First let take a look at the actual book itself. Mine is a proof copy, so not quite the finished article but it's going to be one of those eye-catchers that will jump from the bookshop shelves at people. The book is wider than the average and almost every page is detailed with line drawings, maps, diagrams and extras to the text - all completed by the author himself. The story is of T S (Tecumseh Sparrow) Spivet. He is something of a child prodigy, just twelve years old and already a genius mapmaker. TS lives on a ranch in Montana with his scientist Mother, his cowboy Father and his older sister Gracie. His brother Layton died earlier in the year in an incident with a shotgun - but nobody talks about Layton.TS maps out his life with his incredible drawings - he doesnt just map places, he maps everything - the first map of the book is a diagram instructing 'how to read this book' - he maps out facial expressions, how food is prepared, areas of the house and the ranch - just about everything. TS receives a phonecall from the Smithsonian Institute, telling him that he has won a much coveted scientific prize - a prize much sought after by famous scientists all over the world. The Smithsonian dont know that TS is only twelve, and he decides not to tell them, but to travel across America to accept his prize.So begins the journey. TS leaves the ranch with his precious belongings, without telling anyone and begins his journey across the country. He manages to stowaway on a freight train and spends much of the journey holed up in a new Winnebago that he christens and has conversations with.TS had stolen one of his mother's notebooks as he wanted to take a piece of her. During his journey he reads the notebook, which turns out to be a history of his family, especially about his great grandmother Emma - one the first female scientists in America.The journey is full of adventure and experience and eventually TS reaches his destination - to be thrust in the world of celebrity and stardom - but this comes at a price, and whilst TS is super intelligent, he is still a child and wants and needs his childhood pleasures.This is a compelling and extraodinary read - TS is a wonderful character, although at times, it is very hard to believe that he is only 12. His take on life, his explanations of happenings and the added dimension of the illustrations throughout the book are unique.I particularly enjoyed the story of his ancestors, and how the interest in scientific things came about - this is a story within the story and adds another dimension to the whole novel.I was a little disappointed by the ending - I felt that the author knew TS's story had to be wrapped up neatly, but wasnt quite sure how to do it - so comes the introduction of a strange cult-like sect, with some great characters, but it doesnt quite fit.In all, a satisfying and very different read.

  • Lauren
    2019-01-02 09:31

    Five stars because this was one of the most unique books I have ever come across... the story itself is a first-person narrative by T.S. Spivet (Tecumseh Sparrow, the first name passed down four generations), a 12-year-old cartographer and illustrator. The story begins just before T.S. receives a phone call from the Smithsonian that he has been awarded the very prestigious Baird fellowship as "America's Illustrator", in residence at the Smithsonian. Being 12-years old, and too ashamed to mention this, he decides to set off on a cross-country hobo journey "riding the rails". He lucks out when he finds a train car carrying Winnebagos, and he lives inside of one of them for several days. The journey across the country allows him to reflect even further on his fractured home life, and the recent tragedy of his brother's accidental death. By the time he reaches his destination, the story is nearing the end, and even through his wünderkind genius, you see that T.S. is still a child, and really just longs for his family and his home.The story itself garners about 3 out of five stars for me; it was the illustrations and the book design, and the humor and emotions woven throughout that topped this rating to 5 stars for me. That, and I have never seen anything this unique. That alone deserves the highest marks. Nearly every single page of the 300+ page novel has intricate and detailed illustrations and maps, drawn by T.S., that correspond in one way or another, to the overall story. Some are ridiculously funny - one of my favorites was the drawing and measurements of the angle of his little brother's fist pumps, and some are so advanced - demographic maps, sound waves, etc. The illustrations and maps make this book a true gem.

  • Jamie
    2018-12-17 13:37

    Perhaps among my favorite books read in the past, oh, five years – and that’s saying a lot, as I’ve read some jim dandies. The fact is, I think I would have enjoyed this book even without the maps – they are just an added bonus. My favorites, for pure laughter-inducing purposes:Page 16: Father Drinks Whiskey With a Sensational Degree of RegularityPage 107: Down on Your Luck? Ride the Rails!Page 290: Recipe for Gracie’s Wintertime SpecialPage 338: FTUFMBEF Map #4: Clara and Jamie’s First Day at the Museum (just because it references my all-time favorite kid’s book!?!)There are definitely some flaws here: The interlude in Chicago with the crazy guy is a little heavy-handed and I kept thinking that it would turn out to be some kind of dream. The fact that T.S. just happens to land on a train car with a Winnebago seems awfully convenient – but then again, why not? Also, I’ve read way too many books about preteen, socially awkward prodigies (Infinite Jest, Last Samurai, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, etc) to be completely okay with this one… but somehow I was able to get over those facts pretty quickly and just go along for the ride.Overall, this book is excellent. Not as original as you might think (or as it’s being marketed to be), especially if you’ve read the books I listed above, but I don’t care. It is one of those rare books where completely unbelievable things happen in a completely believable world; despite the strange events of the novel, it is ultimately grounded in reality. It was great.

  • Ori Fienberg
    2018-12-21 11:20

    I was really excited to see this in the basement of the Brookline Booksmith for just $5. I'd seen it a few months earlier and knew the general story/hype (it's not often that an author gets a 6, let alone 7 figure deal for a book, particularly a first book).I bought it toward the end of February and read the first 35 pages in a white-heat, captivated by the precocious narrator and his amazing "maps," both of the land, and of the habits of his family member. I particularly loved "Father Drinks Whiskey with a Sensational Degree of Regularity."I read a few more pages, and then heavy fatigue set in. There were several reasons:1) The 12 year old narrator is just a little too smart (and perhaps autistic). Don't get me wrong: I love novels with alienated gifted-and-talented narrators, with Hal from Infinite Jest probably taking the cake, but for some reason I just wasn't as convinced by T.S. I could never quite shake the feeling that I was reading the work of an extremely intelligent slightly older person trying to impersonate an extremely intelligent younger person. This wasn't universal throughout the book, sometimes it was totally convincing, but the gaps were disconcerting.2) T.S.'(s) maps are great and punctuate the book like footnotes. Little arrows stemming from the text indicate to the reader that a map is relevant to a particular section, and while these are initially cute, following all of them can be fatiguing, both on the eyes, and in how they slow down the progress of the plot.3) While there are plenty of sublime moments, at times the writing seemed to drag on. I was significantly more taken with T.S.' maps, and a part of me wishes that there had been significantly more maps, and significantly fewer words.Ultimately, I'm torn about how to rate this book. In the program where I teach there's endless debate about how to grade pieces of writing. On the one hand, there's the technical execution crowd: an unoriginal essay may receive a higher grade than a particularly thoughtful one if it demonstrates solid follow through. I more often find myself in the camp that wishes to award higher grades to papers that may not work out perfectly, but make an original argument.And so it is with this novel. On the one hand I feel it could have been executed better, but on the other it's such an original piece with so many bright moments that I can't help but be kinder in my assessment. At one point the narrator speculates that true success of a book should be measured in how re-readable it is (or something to that effect). I can't quite imagine wanting to reread this book from start to finish, but over the last month or so since I've finished it I have found myself flipping through to find a particular map, and so I get the impression this is a book that is more likely to rise in my esteem than go down.This is Reif Larsen's first book. I feel the ending left considerable avenues to continue the story of T.S. Spivet and I'd love to see a sequel in which he enters puberty and perhaps "navigates" his first romance. Regardless, Larsen is an author I'll be looking out for in the future and will, despite reservations about his first book, pounce on his second, particularly if I can find in the bargain bin for $5.

  • Raina
    2018-12-26 08:22

    T.S. is a prodigy of cartography. He is only twelve years old, and he sees his whole world through the lens of mapping. He creates maps of movement, sociological phenomena, all of the possible moves from the starting position in Cat's Cradle... The possibilities are literally endless. All of his maps feature technical drawings so precise and aesthetically pleasing that he regularly publishes his maps in magazines like Smithsonian and Science. He does all this from a ranch in Montana. His dad is a rancher who kneels at the altar of the iconic Cowboy, and his mom is an entomologist studying a quite possibly nonexistant bug. His sister is a prototypical teenage girl; none of his family knows that he is a famous cartographer (well, as famous as a cartographer can be). One day, he gets a phone call from the Smithsonian - he has won a prestigious award, which comes with the opportunity to give a speech to the academic elite in Washington D.C. and temporary post at the Smithsonian Institute.All this would be fascinating enough, but, as you would totally wish if you were reading this in the traditional way, T.S.'s maps are included in the book. Each page has margins of two or maybe three inches, and in many ways, we get to see the world as T. S. sees it. As an analytical person myself, I loved this book. It's a relatively quiet book, though there is violence and adventure, and secret societies. There is a large chunk in the middle where Larsen dedicates tens of pages to a story about T.S.'s ancestor - a fictional woman who was one of the the earliest academically educated female scientists in America. I have a soft spot for quirky kids who see the world through unique lenses, and this definitely fits that set.It's shelved in Adult Fiction at my library, which isn't misplaced, as the journey and the story will probably be appreciated the most by adults. But if you have a prodigy kid in your life, they might like it too.

  • LectoraEstherica
    2019-01-06 10:32

    Mi calificación en función de mi disfrute al leerla sería de 4 estrellas, pero se merece las 5 por la cantidad de trabajo que debió llevarle al autor todos esos detalles y dibujos que hacen esta historia tan especial y que la acompañan hasta el final. No tiene nada que ver con la Pequeña Miss Sunshine, sí va de una familia y sí, se emprende un viaje por un premio que gana Spivet (en PMS tiene que participar en un concurso), y ambos son niños, pero ya está. Aquí se embarca T.S solo a cruzar los EEUU y vivir aventuras. Aunque muchas no pasa, lo que pasa es bastante miedo y añoranza por su familia y su hogar y su habitación.T.S. es adorable, muy ingenuo, introvertido y su imaginación le desborda. También se cuenta parte de otra historia de sus primeros antepasados en el nuevo mundo, y no me suele gustar esto (si quieres contar una historia, cuéntala, no utilices otra historia para otra más antigua), pero esta me ha gustado bastante, así que no me ha importado. Para el final había veces que pensaba que T.S estaba realmente alucinando por unas personas que aparecen por ahí, pero el resultado final me gustó bastante. He intentado encontrar en cada dibujo grande y pequeño a Layton, pero en varios no los he encontrado, pero el detalle me ha emocionado.

  • Andy
    2018-12-24 11:27

    It's true, there's very little else like this. An oversize, square hulk of a book chronicling the cross country journey of TS Spivet as he heads to the Smithsonian to collect a scientific award. All at the tender age of 12. His insights into the oddities of everyday life and adulthood are punctuated, diverted and embellished by an ongoing collection of maps, technical diagrams, footnotes, and sketches on almost every page that are a joy to behold. It's the novel equivalent of a low-fi indie comedy with an increasingly implausible plot, a loss of focus for the final section and a half baked ending that doesn't quite leave you where you hoped. Ultimately though, it doesn't matter too much. It's all about the journey. Yes there are faults (TS despite his genius sounds way too adult in his narrative at times) but overall it's a treasure and a definite read.

  • Girl with her Head in a Book
    2019-01-02 16:33

    For my full review: only just about stopped myself from buying this book when I was on holiday in Scotland earlier this year - the discovery that it had been made into a film by the director of Amelie was very appealing. But alas, frugality won the day - not something that often happens when I am in a bookshop. Anyway, flashing forward a few months and I was delighted to rediscover it in my local library. This is one of those glorious books which defy genre and instead sweep up the reader and whirl them away to frontiers unknown - originally published as The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, this is a story of an incredible journey, an extraordinary young boy and a novel that teeters towards the brilliant.The eponymous T.S. Spivet is a twelve year-old compulsive map-maker and middle child of the family - or at least he was until the recent accident in the barn during a gun-firing experiment which claimed the life of his younger brother Layton. T.S., or to use his full name Tecumseh Sparrow, is one of the most convincingly-drawn children that I can ever remember reading, he is like a less aggressive Holden Caulfield, but with an impressive range of notebooks instead of a hunting hat. He attempts to occupy himself with his sketching and categorising while he and his family attempt to numb the pain of Layton's loss with silence and avoiding the subject. His sister Gracie is fixated with 'awful girl pop', his cowboy father is unreachable and T.S.' mother, who he only ever refers to as 'Dr Clair', is unknowable, caught up with her own quest to discover the possibly non-existent 'tiger monk beetle'. In the midst of all of this, T.S. receives a phone call summoning him hundreds of miles away to receive an award at the Smithsonian, an organisation which is under the impression that he is a fully grown adult and who have been receiving his illustrations for quite some time.Based on this description, one could be forgiven for expecting a standard coming-of-age story, but T.S. Spivet is something quite different. Around a third of each page is taken up with margins and footnotes of T.S.' observations and sketches, which reveal as much or more about the plot than the main text. The reader follows T.S.' thought processes back and forth, becoming fully immersed in his thoughts and preoccupations in a truly inventive way. I was reminded of reading Possession, as I had a similar sense of wonderment at the complete imaginative world that the author had created for the protagonist. Through the annotations, we learn about his past experiments, his relationship with his parents and most particularly with Layton so that we realise how sorely missed is the brother who so seldom features in the main text. That being said, it is a book that needs a great deal of concentration and at certain points, following the arrows and catching all the small print did feel a little like hard work.Deciding to make his own way to Washington, T.S. sets off by stowing aboard a passing train, having first worried himself into a state of high anxiety over what to pack, collecting up an impressively impractical suitcase for the expedition. He is excited about his voyage, imagining the adventures of Lewis and Clark, but the reader pictures more Huckleberry Finn. The strongest part of the book is T.S.' Incredible Journey, which is full of highs and lows and moments of high drama - at this point, I was certain that I would need to buy my own copy of the book and re-read it repeatedly. However, after going through his suitcase, T.S. discovers that the notebook he purloined from his mother does not in fact contain scientific observations but is instead an excerpt from - gasp - a novel which she appears to have been writing concerning the life of Emma Osterville, one of their ancestors. While her story is interesting, it felt like an unwelcome distraction from the mid of T.S. - I could believe that he would gulp the story down, hungry to discover more of his distant mother's inner life, but as a reader, I was more interested in him.A further blow came when T.S. finally arrived in Washington, unveiling himself as the twelve year-old wunderkind and discovering that the Smithsonian which he had revered for so long housed another collection of adults who are also imperfect, prone to lying and all keen to get ahead. The way the plot turned towards secret societies failed to convince or satisfy and felt like an out of place dream sequence. It all felt as if it almost worked - the mirroring of how T.S. started off the book confident in his own intellect who 'didn't often remember that [he] was twelve years-old', feeling ready to take on the trip to Washington and finishes an anxious child keen to be rescued, it's a fascinating irony, not to mention being like a speeded-up version of how adulthood can really feel at times! But I still felt a sadness that someone in the editing process had not sat down to help Larsen with the final third as it just fails to live up to the earlier promise.Fans of Wes Anderson are sure to enjoy this - I really did. T.S. Spivet is a delightful protagonist and Larsen depicts perfectly how his compulsive categorisation and mapping of the world seems to stem from a psychological need, meaning that the information he delivers still feels organic. One of my favourites was when T.S. breaks down the five different forms of boredom - this is not something which I felt in any stage of the novel. The use of the marginalia allows us access to T.S.' subconscious, his darker feelings and guilt around his role in Layton's accidental death but via the main body of the novel, we watch him journey to self-acceptance and self-recognition. The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, as the book was originally entitled, had the potential to be a classic but it remains a thoroughly enjoyable read and has the benefit of one of the most original main characters I can remember. What I really wished though was that not quite so many loose ends had been left dangling.

  • TheBookSmugglers
    2019-01-12 12:25

    Original review posted on The Book Smugglers: Tecumseh Sparrow (T.S.) Spivet is the narrator of this story, the unlikely prodigy child of a Montana rancher (the father) and a brilliant yet failed scientist (the mother). At 12, he is already a budding scientist interested in anatomy and entomology (just to name a couple) and an accomplished mapmaker. It is the latter that end up helping him to be granted an award from the Smithsonian Institution . The story opens with the phone call from another scientist linked to the Smithsonian (who believes T.S. to be an adult) who invites him to give a talk at the Institution. This precipitates the actual plot which involves T.S. running away from home, embarking on a journey to the East by hoboing his way through America.The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet was a complicated book to read and this is going to be a complicated review to write. Perhaps the best word to describe it would be “extravagant”. To start with, there is the format of the book itself. It is an oversized book, and the margins have been expanded to include side explanations, musings, drawings, sketches, anything really, that T.S. deems necessary to complement the story. These are often cool, interesting additions which go beyond merely complementing the story because a lot of the time, these offer a portrayal of his real emotional state. It is actually after reading the first examples of these extra bits that one comes to realise that T.S. might be precocious but he is still a child nonetheless. The extravagance here arises from the fact that these extra things are present in nearly every page of this book and since they must be read, as they contain essential elements to the story, sometimes reading the book was an exhausting endeavour. In fact, it took me over 3 months to get through merely 390 pages because I felt I could only read a handful of pages at a time. Despite that, I didn’t think this to be gimmicky and actually really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Then there is the premise – T.S. is preposterously precocious and his brilliance at only 12 is almost too hard to believe. Major points to the author then that this is not really a problem and T.S. ,as a character, is quite possibly the best thing about the book – he is charming, funny, creative and even, endearing. His tendency to map the world and everything about it determines his basic personality: he likes order, he likes everything to be clear, he likes to explain away the things that he is perhaps too young to understand and grasp. He maps everything: his environment, books, the people he knows and how they act. As a reflection of his mental state, he actually believes that those are already pre-determined maps inside. It is perhaps easier to believe that than to accept that there is no pre-determination (even though there is very little science in thoughts like these). Which brings me the plot. The book is divided in three parts: part 1 is an introduction to T.S. and his dysfunctional family of ostensibly emotionless parents in the aftermath of a family tragedy that nobody talks about: the death of his younger brother (their father’s favourite) in an accident for which T.S. feel partially responsible for. This is where he dwells on trying to decide whether he will go to Washington or not, eventually deciding to leave. This part is my favourite: it was brilliantly done, I loved the themes brought up here, including the differences between the parents, the fact that T.S. feels detached from his father and more attached to his scientist mother at the same time that is completely frustrated by what he feels is her failure to be a successful scientist.This part is followed by Spivet’s journey to the East. He is mostly alone for the entirety of the journey except by some conversations with other hobos and a couple of scary confrontations with strangers – one of them quite serious. There is a marked difference in tone between part 1 and 2. Not only there is an element of magical realism in part 2 that was not present at all in part 1, there is also the fact that most of the narrative is taken over by his mother’s journal entries depicting the life of an ancestor, one of the first females cartographers. Whereas I was not a fan of the former because it felt so out of place in this novel, the latter was fascinating – not only in itself but also in the way that it depicts another side of his mother. This part basically ends in a most surreal scene (the aforementioned confrontation) that I felt has very little repercussions to the overall story and which made me wonder whether I was reading something else entirely, like a Science Fiction novel featuring wormholes or something. It got to a point where I was hoping T.S. was in fact dreaming or dead or … you get the picture.That sense of surrealism never leaves the pages once we reach part 3 and T.S. experiences Washington. And here is where the book truly falters, where extravagance meets ludicrous. There is not only the Smithsonian complete unbelievable exploitation of this kid but also totally ridiculous sinister underground plots that make no sense in the context of the story told till them plus a certain amount of laughable revelations. Not to mention the foolish “exposé” of the Evil East as opposed to the naïve and good West. And here is the main problem of this novel: those three parts are so disjointed, the overall feeling is that I read three different books. The first was excellent. The second was good. The third, so bad it hurt. It is an extremely irregular novel with far too many ideas that were not executed into a coherent whole. It is a shame because the beginning was amazingly full of potential which just made for a very frustrating read as the story progressed into the mess it became. Still, there is a little of emotional pay-off in the end between T.S. and his parents which was the one thing that kept the book from hitting the walls of my bedroom.

  • Jane Snyder
    2018-12-25 16:42

    I would give the first section of this book 5 stars; I loved the story of T.S. and his family. But once T.S.'s train ride began, I was annoyed at the suddenly strange fantasy of the continuing tale. We were taken from a sensitive, smart and humorous story about T.S.'s dysfunctional family, about whom I REALLY cared, to a science fiction-like ride across the country that often made no sense to me. I also had no interest in Emma, and think in retrospect the title should be The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet... and Emma, given the number of pages alotted to her and her mother. I felt that her long story was mostly unnecessary, and the serious tone, (I realize, written by Dr. Clair), was an imbalance to the fun and roller coaster tale about T.S. I would like Reif Larsen to map out the different directions his novel takes with all its different story plots and tones. For me, there were too many; and none was concluded in a satisfactory way. The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet was made up of three completely different novels, not three sections, which I wish would've been written separately, with each one given the attention and breadth it deserved, and with more definitive endings. I was so disappointed; I wanted to love all 375 pages, not just the first 100. Jane would like to thank: Pat Heller for recommending another book.Now having attended a book discussion of this book, I have changed my mind about it. I would recommend anyone reading it to do an in-depth study of T.S.'s parents. The mother, whom T.S. calls Dr. Clair and the father who only relates to Layton, are both very interesting. This book has a lot more going on than I gave it credit for.

  • Alyssia Cooke
    2018-12-25 11:41

    This was a book that intrigued me when I saw it in Waterstones, although had it not been on a buy 3 for 2 deal I probably wouldn't have spent the RRP price of £12.99. I think it intrigued me because it seemed like a more adult version of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time', which I had enjoyed. Although the main character does not seem to be autistic, he makes sense of life in a similar way, but instead of using numbers it's drawing maps. Plus, the front cover of the book is amazingly attractive which always appeals to me! It really was one of those occasions of monkey see, monkey want...and I wanted it. I flicked through it and found it beautifully illustrated and so was even more willing to buy it. But did it stand up to expectations? Was the story as good as the illustrations?===Story=== The main character of the novel is T.S. Spivet, a 12 year old genius mapmaker. One of his main problems to begin with is that he lives on a ranch and his father is a 'man's man' who identifies himself with the cowboys of old. Needless to say his son's scientific mind drives him insane as he'd far prefer to have an extra hand on the ranch, and T.S. Spivet certainly isn’t that. Originally there had been a younger brother who preferred working with his hands to using his brain, but Layton died in a gun accident long before the book starts. So the father is left with the useless son, the one who he never understood nor cared to understand. His mother on the other hand is a scientist, and she used to be a very good one until she threw away her career in search of an imaginary beetle that she's been searching for coming up fifteen years. Nobody else believes that this beetle exists but it is her absolute obsession. Gracie, his older sister, wants to be an actress and knows that living on the ranch is killing her dreams. And the final member of his family is Verity the dog, who is going mad. So, it's not the most normal of families, but whose is? T.S. Spivet makes sense of his family and the world by drawing beautiful, meticulous maps which he keeps in colour coded notebooks according to their subjects; maps of the country-side, maps of his family's behaviour, maps of animals, maps of mechanical objects and so on. But the story really starts when the Smithsonian Institution gets in contact with him about the drawings that he has submitted to them and other magazines. Because of the genius of these pieces he has won a major scientific prize which comes with a teaching post, but they have no idea that he is only twelve years old. And what would any self respecting twelve year old boy do in response to such an offer? Well, probably not flee in the dead of the night and illegally ride the freight trains for two thousand miles to reach Washington D.C. But if the book was about a normal child in a normal family doing the sane and reasonable thing then it wouldn’t really be much of a story. And guess what T.S Spivet chooses to do?A large amount of the novel is therefore spent describing T.S's journey on the freight trains and explaining how he kept himself occupied during the journey. This is partially by drawing more of his detailed maps to keep track of the surrounding area, the route they have been taking and the objects in the carriage. Another way in which he seems to amuse himself is by talking to inanimate objects...which oddly enough appear to talk back and so he can have full conversations with these random things. But during the periods of time in which he is not having a conversation with a mountain or gun, most of his time is spent reading his mother's biography of his great-grandmother. This means that much of the second section of the novel is taken up by the biography of someone who doesn't play a real role in the novel other than being a scientist who died 150 years ago. And the final section of the book is about him arriving at his destination and the reactions of those who gave him the award. There is no great suspense as you know he will get there, the only real thing is what will happen when he does. When the great minds of the times realise that they have given one of the most prestigious scientific prizes to a twelve year old, and what they will do with him now.===Format=== This is what truly attracted me to the novel in the first place, as the book itself is huge but the amount of text per page is average and it has massive margins. And in these margins throughout the book are some of the intricate drawings of maps, people, equipment and rooms which T.S. Spivet has drawn either earlier in his life or during the journey. These serve to illustrate the book and whatever point T.S may be making at the time, and it also makes it stand out from other books on the shelves of the store. It looks fantastic, but I'm not sure whether this is a good enough reason to buy the book as overall it is a mediocre novel. However, considering I had already bought the book the illustrations do make it far more interesting and appealing – if they weren’t there I’d be thoroughly peeved about the amount of money I had spent! They are also very well done and often the comments which are written to go with them have the few aspects of humour in the novel. ===My response=== Personally, this was a disappointment. The storyline wasn't bad, but is was by no means good; if anything it often seemed weak. It didn't seem to go anywhere. It is a good premise but wasn't fulfilled to its full potential. I thoroughly enjoyed the first section, and kind of enjoyed the third section, but the middle was disappointing and I found that I was struggling to read it without getting bored out of my brains. Events in this section which could have proven interesting and even gripping were glossed over, leaving it a rather boring account of a boy riding some trains! Possibly an attractive prospect if you’re obsessed by trains but unfortunately the majority of the population aren’t!I have several other issues with the novel, and one of them is what I'd call a spiced potato, or otherwise noted to normal people as something which goes beyond the suspension of disbelief. This phrase came from when my boyfriend was reading a book set in King Arthur's time period and threw the book across the room when he read that the peasants were eating spiced potatoes. Spices? Potatoes? Anyone else see a problem!? But anyhow, back to this novel and the spiced potato that it glaringly shows. T.S. Spivet is without a shadow of a doubt a scientific genius almost to the point of Asperger's, but the issue is that he shows no signs of autism. The author has given him a wide ranged vocabulary, the ability to interact well with other people and particularly other adults, and an intelligence in many other areas. He is not a realistic character because he is too well rounded. In a normal case this would be a good thing but because he is so brilliant in such a specific area there must be a fault somewhere to find; you just don’t find such brilliance without some form of problem, disability or fault. This is what made ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ so brilliant; it was realistic and it was engaging. But because there isn't one here it leaves him seeming two dimensional and unbelievable. In addition the author has put a very adult thought process into what is primarily the thoughts of a child, which becomes annoying as you tend to forget the age of the character until the book actively reminds you. Again with Mark Haddon’s book he has written the character very clearly as a child and you are never without doubt that he is a child, here there seems to be a strange juxtaposition of child and adult thoughts, behaviours and mannerisms.Another issue is that none of the other characters are given full characters and personalities. There is very little expansion of any of them except possibly the father of T.S. Spivet whom T.S is constantly trying to psycho-analyse to find some way to be something other than the second rate son. But even then his father isn't given any prime time until the very end of the novel. All you know about his mother is that she is a scientist, somewhat obsessive, on a search for a mythical beetle and even her own son calls her Dr. Claire. Dr. Yorn is another scientist and is portrayed as T.S's role model and mentor but again you know very little about him and he very rarely actually appears. And if that's bad then it's even worse with Gracie and his dog as they are barely given a mention after their introduction; more is said about the dead brother than about the living sister. This focus on T.S. without a full exploration of his family and friends also makes the novel seem two dimensional and rather dry. With a novel that has such little action and a complete lack of suspense you need the characters to back it up, and this novel just doesn’t offer them. It fails with T.S. Spivet himself for the reasons mentioned above, but it does appallingly with the other characters; they might as well not exist at all.As a final complaint, I'd say that the biography of T.S.'s great-grandmother was most definitely an unorthodox and possibly brave addition to the novel, but it didn't work very well. This was probably because it seemed to be used as a space filler for when the author ran out of things to say. It could have worked if it was much shorter and less time consuming, but because it takes up such a large chuck of the novel (as in most of the second section) it just seemed unnecessary. The only use it has is to shed a small amount of light on his mothers psychology, but it's not even good at doing that. It was, to give credit, interesting reading but all the way through it I couldn't help wondering why I was reading it and what the point was. I still haven't figured this out yet. If you are going to put in something like this then you either need to make it short and snappy or you need to make it very relevant to what you are trying to say in the novel. Or at the very least relevant to the main character in the novel. This book manages neither and you are just left with a sense of complete confusion.===Conclusion=== So, in total what is my view? Well if you are willing to spend £12.99 for the pictures go ahead and buy it, as the illustrations are extraordinary. But if you are buying it for a gripping story, don't bother - or at least skip the middle section and skim the end section until the last twenty or so pages. It really does come across as a two dimensional story, and I personally believe that if there had been less of the going no-where plot and more character padding and psychology this could have been a fantastic book. Unfortunately, there wasn’t and it isn't. ===Boring Stuff=== Price: £4.43 on Amazon ISBN-13: 978-1846552786 Publisher: # Publisher: Harvill Secker; Airport / Ireland / Export e. edition (4 Jun 2009) Pages: 388

  • Cecily
    2019-01-06 15:43

    An extraordinary book that defies categorisation. It purports to be the notes of a 12 year old boy prodigy who is obsessed with making "maps" (including all sorts of illustrations and diagrams, both literal representations and more metaphorical). Several are published in respected journals and when he unexpectedly wins a fellowship of the Smithsonian, he runs away from his family's ranch in Montana to attend the event and give a speech in Washington DC.The first two thirds concern TS's life and journey, and the narrative is heavily annotated with notes and diagrams. His father is a cowboy rancher and his mother a somewhat detached entomologist he calls "Dr Clair". He is clever, analytical and talented, but still has toys, fears and occasional imaginary conversations with inanimate objects. As well as his own story, occasional mentions of his younger brother's death in a shooting accident gradually build up a sad sub-plot. There are also two long passages of biographical notes of an ancestor who was a pioneering female scientist; they were too substantial and thus intrusive for my taste.The final third of the book is completely different and not nearly as good. It loses all credibility as the plot seems more like something from Dan Brown: a mysterious old man, secret societies, secret underground passages, wormholes and adults who ignore all aspects of caring for someone else's (injured) child. Very disappointing.Nevertheless, there are delights in the book. The passion and compulsion of explaining things visually is wonderful: "I think we are born with a map of the entire world in our heads... The patterns are already there and I see the map in my head and draw it... part of the reason I drew my maps in the first place: to return the unfamiliar to the familiar... an unfinished map always left a little tickle in the back of my throat." Mapping is an act "of translation and transcendence", so "a map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we didn't know were previously connected".TS has a intuitive appreciation of landscape, "the railway tracks cut straight ahead, asking no questions of the bedrock... the river talked with the land as it wound its way through the valley" versus "the serpentine geography of civilisation... a collective obsession with the comforting logic of right angles." Less literally, "The air was not filled with thought bubbles or sidelong glances. Everyone was sleeping, all of their ideas and hopes and hidden agendas entangled in the dream world".There is humour too (he has "the kind of mother who would teach you the periodic table while feeding you porridge but not the type, in this age of global terrorism and child kidnappers, to ask who might be calling her children.") and fear ("past midnight, sounds in old houses were no longer governed by the laws of cause and effect").Maybe this book would appeal more to 12 year old boys; I'm not sure. It reminds me a little of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and TS does have slight Asperger tendencies (e.g. feeling uneasy about the "naked wooden square" of a pencil that was missing its rubber and grooved metal ring).In some ways, I think it only deserves 3*, but it is so original and so beautifully presented, that I've given it 4*.

  • Karel-Willem Delrue
    2019-01-04 08:31

    De wereld in kaart gebrachtHebt u ooit het gevoel dat u de hele inhoud van het universum allang ergens in uw hoofd heeft zitten, alsof u bent geboren met een volledige kaart van de wereld, die al in de plooien van uw cerebellum geëtst staat, en dat u uw hele leven alleen maar bezig bent te ontdekken hoe u bij die kaart kunt komen?Je moet het maar doen. Als dertiger debuteren met een succesboek dat door Jean-Pierre Jeunet wordt verfilmd! Reif Larsen doorbreekt in De verzamelde werken van T.S. Spivet de klassieke structuur van een roman door zijn marges op te vullen met tekeningen, bijschriften, bedenkingen en voetnoten. Dat experiment levert soms een leuke afwisseling op tijdens het lezen en laat de auteur toe om vaak verrassende details aan zijn verhaal toe te voegen, maar helaas is de extra inhoud soms ook vergezocht en levert de marge vaak geen echte bijdrage tot de verhaallijn.Dat is meteen ook de grote zwakte van dit boek: Spivet mist een doordachte spanningsboog. De verhaallijn is -paradoxaal genoeg- niet echt goed uitgetekend. Het eerste deel is voor mij het hart van dit verhaal. In de expositie leren we het gezin Spivet kennen en daarin schuilt de kracht van dit boek. De onderlinge verschillen tussen de gezinsleden en vooral de relatie tussen T.S. en zijn ouders waren vermoedelijk één van de redenen waarom Jeunet toehapte. In deel twee laat Larsen echter wat steken vallen: het tempo wordt uit het verhaal gehaald, er gebeurt eigenlijk niet echt iets (ondanks de titel: "De lange reis") en het eindigt bijna belachelijk ongeloofwaardig. Deel drie is dan weer van een heel andere aard. Hierin legt Larsen de dualiteit tussen jeugdige verwachtingen en de banale realiteit van de volwassenwereld en het mediacircus dat daarmee gepaard gaat bloot. Bizarre personages in de trant van Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain of Micmacs à tire-larigot ontbreken helaas en de zelfverklaarde empiricus van 12 hanteert een taalgebruik dat te beeldend, te literair en te rijp is om aan een kinderbrein ontsproten te kunnen zijn. Anderzijds blinkt De verzamelde werken van T.S. Spivet uit in een verrassende en verfrissende kijk op de dingen. Larsen is er in zijn boek echt in geslaagd om de wereld door de ogen van een kind te bekijken. Het moment waarop T.S. voor het eerst in een grootstad aankomt is daar het mooiste voorbeeld van.Toch mist het boek ritme en bevat het te weinig (onverwachte) gebeurtenissen om zich als een onvergetelijk 'roadboek' in mijn geheugen te nestelen.Ik ben wel erg benieuwd wat Jeunet hiervan gemaakt heeft. Is in dit geval de film beter dan het boek?

  • Alison
    2018-12-31 10:27

    T.S. Spivet, an obsessive and nerdy 12-year-old cartographer who maps everything in his life and is too mature in the way of really smart kids, somehow manages to flatly and critically describe his surroundings and his family members, even while, almost as if he is unaware of it, he conveys an striking amount of compassion and love for his family. It's that subtle emotion - that humanity - that gives this book its charm, even as T.S. heads out on an inexplicable adventure that left me baffled as often as it left me wanting to jump on a train carrying Winnebagos (although I think I would have had more food with me, since I take a granola bar with me to the grocery store) and go on my own adventure.Baffling and inexplicable because... well, I think you just have to read it to understand what I mean. This is not a book that can be easily summed up or described. It is far from perfect. It is both enchanting and disconcerting. It isn't tidy. It is often vague. The supporting characters, for all that they are thrown together in unique ways and are clearly supposed to be offbeat, often come across as so eccentric that they come full circle to stereotypical. And I was unsatisfied with the ending, which arrived abruptly and jarringly, and left too many questions unanswered.But the book is filled with a spirit of discovery that makes even the strangest, the saddest, the most unsettling events that happen as T.S. makes his way through his story seem somehow magical. Add to that the illustrations - intriguing maps and diagrams and charts and little asides that add a final dimension of wonder - and this book, for all its flaws and strengths and humanness, is a true marvel.