Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant
Daniel Tammet is a writer, linguist and educator. A 2007 poll of 4,000 Britons named him as one of the world's “100 living geniuses.” His website company, Optimnem, has provided foreign language instruction to thousands around the globe. His 2006 memoir, the New York Times bestseller Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant, has been translated into 18 languages. He lives in Avignon, in the south of France.
Compiled by Wayne Pricer, Schoolcraft College Librarian
1. Optimnem, The Official Website of Daniel Tammet:
2. Selected Bibliography:
3. Brainman Documentary:
4. 60 Minutes Profile:
Questions from the Publisher’s Reading Group Discussion Guide:
1. How does Daniel Tammet’s experience of numbers and language differ from that of most people? What explains his intense attraction to prime numbers? How does Daniel characterize his relationships with numbers, and how does it compare to his relationships with people?
2. How are Daniel’s savant syndrome and his epilepsy connected? Why might epilepsy allow some regions of Daniel’s brain to perform with remarkable efficiency? Of Daniel’s many remarkable abilities as a savant, which did you find most fascinating or extraordinary, and why?
3. “Predictability was important to me, a way of feeling in control in a given situation, a way of keeping feelings of anxiety at bay, at least temporarily.” To what extent is Daniel’s need for regularity and predictability a kind of compulsion? Why might similar behavior in someone without savant syndrome be perceived as neurosis? How does the unexpected affect Daniel?
4. How can Daniel’s professional success be understood in light of his having grown up in a large family that required a great deal of him socially, despite his autism? What roles might his family’s uncertain finances and his father’s illness have played in Daniel’s development? How would you characterize Daniel’s connection to his family as an adult?
5. Why was Daniel unable to reveal the fact of his homosexuality to his parents prior to his time volunteering in Lithuania? How did his experiences living abroad affect Daniel’s sense of self? To what extent were you surprised at Daniel’s ability to adapt to life in another country?
6. How would you describe Daniel’s relationship with his partner, Neil? In light of Daniel’s unique neurological concerns, why was their decision to move in together especially complicated? How do they accommodate Daniel’s autistic spectrum disorder in their day-to-day life as a couple? Given that Daniel has difficulty feeling and identifying emotions, why do you think he is able to experience romantic love?
7. “The relationship I have with language is quite an aesthetic one, with certain words and combinations of words being particularly beautiful and stimulating to me.” How does Daniel use his knowledge of different languages to help him understand and learn new languages? What does Daniel’s invention of a language of his own, Mänti, reveal about his desire to communicate his appreciation of language to the world?
8. How does Daniel describe his experience of the number pi? Why are scientists particularly interested in his ability to see numbers as landscapes with color and texture? How did Daniel’s memorization and recitation of thousands of digits of pi affect him and how did it impact his visibility in the world of savant study?
9. Why might Daniel have felt a special kinship with Kim Peek, the person whose life as a savant inspired the film, Rain Man? How does Daniel’s experience of autism differ from Kim’s, and what neurological abilities do they share? Why do you think Daniel describes meeting Kim Peek as “one of the happiest moments” of his life?
10. What impact did Daniel’s conversion to Christianity in 2002 have on his life? What role does his religious belief play in his engagement and interaction with others? To what extent are you surprised that someone with Daniel’s gifts and abilities is able to put his faith in God?