I’m a big believer in an introduction not being anyone’s best work necessarily, you want to hook a reader but not give all of the wonder of future works away. My favorite Robison book is either Look Me In The Eye, his debut; or possibly Switched On, but this is a solid start for anyone interested in either book.
Interestingly, Look Me In The Eye was more of a memoir with a mystery – Robison details his experience with what was then called Asperger’s (a term which has since fallen out of favor as Asperger was a Nazi who differentiated the autistic people who could work versus those who could not) without knowing he was on the autism spectrum until his middle age. The memoir is all about his difficulties relating to others that the adult Robison understands, with the memories of the younger him being confused and isolated without a diagnosis. Switched On is more about his experience with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation therapy where he can experience briefly what a non-autistic perspective may be like in some ways, so it’s another outside-looking-in book. Be Different is more straightforward, almost like a “how to” for interacting with or as an autism-spectrum individual. So it’s almost a gateway to autism spectrum as well as a gateway to Robison’s books themselves.
I can imagine this would be a useful tool for anyone unfamiliar with the differing ends of the autism spectrum or whose child may recently have been diagnosed. But, from someone who has a lot of familiarity with ASD, having read about it for fun, for school, and who works regularly with those on the spectrum, I still had a bit of a shock when our pediatrician suggested that the octolet might be on the spectrum himself. It wasn’t a surprise exactly; both his parents have some tendencies (dad has engineer-brain, I was an early reader and spoke in full sentences when I started talking) as well as extended family who are borderline, but familiarity is no guarantee of expertise, and reading about Robison’s experiences was a nice reassurance that regardless of whether he’s borderline neurotypical or borderline autistic, he’ll be ok. He just might be different.