The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet
Genre : Fiction
Published : 7 May 2009 - Harvill Secker
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 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 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.


Two predictions about THE SELECTED WORKS OF T.S. SPIVET: readers are going to love it as much as I did, and few if any will have experienced anything like it. I'm flabbergasted by Reif Larsen's talent, and I was warmed by his generosity--if this book were a mug of Sundy's magic juice, I would surely hold it in two hands. The drawings that cascade and tumble through the pages could be a gimmick--cutie-poo tatting on the edge of a lace doily--and in the hands of a lesser novelist, that might have been the case. But because T.S. is such a vivid and realistic character (in spite of his Asperger's/OCD tics, not because of them), they add texture, humanity, and humor. This is a very funny book. I laughed until tears ran down my face when T.S. explains how to win at Oregon Trail, and if he were a real boy, I would seek him out so he could teach me how to win at the old Pitfall Harry game. Here is a book that does the impossible: it combines Mark Twain, Thomas Pynchon, and Little Miss Sunshine. Good novels entertain; great ones come as a gift to the readers who are lucky enough to find them. This book is a treasure.

Stephen King

Fantastical, funny and delightfully original.


Its pages are filled with all sorts of diagrams, notes and illustrated sidebars shooting off from the main text that succeed in moving the narrative along, helping the reader to tune into the first-person voice and the precocious, inquiring mind of Spivet... One of the most original books of the year.


Aside from Larsen’s gift for storytelling, what makes the book extraordinary is the author’s exquisite, intricately detailed illustrations... Like his central character, Larsen is a master of digression, taking in a mind-boggling array of subjects.

Scotland on Sunday

One thing is certain; Reif Larson’s wonderfully originally debut, destined to please readers of all ages, is the Next Big Thing... Young Spivet’s voice firmly establishes itself and while we hang on his every word our eyes savour the look of the pages as well as the sidebars and asides, many of which contain crucial detail... A lively, sophisticated narrative.

The Irish Times

What strikes you most about the novel is its tone – redolent of Mark Twain’s Roughing It in the rhythms of its humour and the picaresque deviations of its story-telling... 28-year-old American, Reif Larson, looks set to make waves.

Sunday Times

A child genius prefers devising diagrams to explain the strange world of his family in Reif Larsen’s debut.


The real star of the show is Reif Larsen, a first-time American novelist. TS Spivet is his fictional creation, a mapmaker of genius who is awarded a major scientific prize by the Smithsonian Institute – blissfully unaware that Spivet is 12 years old, with a dysfunctional family in Montana and a dog called Verywell. Some of the sly coming-of-age humour is reminiscent of Huckleberry Finn, but it is also very much a modern novel.

Diane Cousins, Sunday Telegraph, "Pick of the Paperbacks"

Wilfully original and diverting ... you can see exactly why it caused publishers to sit up. It is charming and kooky.


Terrific and frequently hilarious. A novel in which truth and love throb at the corners of our eyes.


A remarkable creation, a thing of great beauty.

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