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Good Trouble: Building a Successful Life and Business with Asperger's

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In 1996, everything about Joe Biel's life seemed like a mistake. He was 18, he got drunk every day and he had mystery health problems and weird social ticks. All his friends were just as bad, or worse. To escape his nihilistic, apocalyptic worldview he started assembling zines and bringing them to underground punk shows. Eventually, this became Microcosm publishing. Finall In 1996, everything about Joe Biel's life seemed like a mistake. He was 18, he got drunk every day and he had mystery health problems and weird social ticks. All his friends were just as bad, or worse. To escape his nihilistic, apocalyptic worldview he started assembling zines and bringing them to underground punk shows. Eventually, this became Microcosm publishing. Finally diagnosed with Asperger's, Joe's life began to fall into place. This is the story of how he turned a litany mistakes and wrong turns into a happy, fulfilled life and a thriving publishing business.


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In 1996, everything about Joe Biel's life seemed like a mistake. He was 18, he got drunk every day and he had mystery health problems and weird social ticks. All his friends were just as bad, or worse. To escape his nihilistic, apocalyptic worldview he started assembling zines and bringing them to underground punk shows. Eventually, this became Microcosm publishing. Finall In 1996, everything about Joe Biel's life seemed like a mistake. He was 18, he got drunk every day and he had mystery health problems and weird social ticks. All his friends were just as bad, or worse. To escape his nihilistic, apocalyptic worldview he started assembling zines and bringing them to underground punk shows. Eventually, this became Microcosm publishing. Finally diagnosed with Asperger's, Joe's life began to fall into place. This is the story of how he turned a litany mistakes and wrong turns into a happy, fulfilled life and a thriving publishing business.

30 review for Good Trouble: Building a Successful Life and Business with Asperger's

  1. 4 out of 5

    Margot

    I loved this book. Granted, I'm a bit of an odd duck, and am obsessed with DIY publishing, so you can take my review with a grain of salt. But here it is anyway. Good Trouble is a fascinating look inside the mind of a creative person who has, against ridiculous odds, in spite of titanic personal challenges, through incredible changes in a struggling industry, made a career for himself and built a recognized, respected brand and a profitable publishing company. The book begins with Joe's childhood I loved this book. Granted, I'm a bit of an odd duck, and am obsessed with DIY publishing, so you can take my review with a grain of salt. But here it is anyway. Good Trouble is a fascinating look inside the mind of a creative person who has, against ridiculous odds, in spite of titanic personal challenges, through incredible changes in a struggling industry, made a career for himself and built a recognized, respected brand and a profitable publishing company. The book begins with Joe's childhood in the midwest, living with a disabled father and abusive mother. It starts to get really interesting as Joe discovers the punk scene, and with it, the zine community. Reading about his experiences with the pre-internet zine community made me nostalgic for a time I missed, where folks discovered shared interests and built community around zines through writing letters and meeting at punk shows. The amount of work, dedication, and risk-taking he describes is truly staggering. In spite of the fact that undiagnosed Aspergers makes Joe's romantic life and interpersonal interactions challenging to impossible for much of his life, he seems to have a strong intuitive understanding of community building, and shows the reader how he built his publishing community and sustained it over two decades. Many readers might wish for a little less of the nitty-gritty publishing details; I actually wished for more. I was fascinated by his descriptions of submissions, editorial decisions, print runs, how one title would sell incredibly well and leave his company, Microcosm, solidly in the black, then an uninformed choice or bad luck with a warehouse or office space would drop them right back into the red. One thing I was surprised by was how calmly Joe describes those setbacks, though it was hard to tell whether that's because time and later success have made the original setbacks seem less momentous, or whether that's a happy peculiarity of Joe's personality. The book also gave me great insight into the way Joe thinks, as a person with Aspergers, though I'm not sure how much would be fair to ascribe to other people who live with the syndrome. Still, it was really interesting to see how his logic and approach to socializing and relationships differs from my own, and made me feel generally like I should work harder to meet people where they are and try for clear communication. Even though the book focuses specifically on independent publishing, anyone trying to establish or sustain a creative career or venture will likely find a lot to interest them. Just the sheer audacity of starting and running a small independent company, in spite of the myriad forces that make such a venture almost impossible, is heartening. The fact that Microcosm is celebrating its 20th anniversary is testament to the fact that Joe Biel, through skill, talent, luck, and grit, has built something great. I can't wait to see what's next.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nika

    Prior to reading Good Trouble, I was only dimly aware of the controversy surrounding Joe Biel. I vaguely remember seeing something on Metafilter, and I own several Microcosm titles, but wasn't really tuned in to their context or their significance in the DIY community. After reading Good Trouble, I did some research. Joe (understandably) spends a hefty chunk of the book addressing the controversy, and I wanted to see what was what. I have thoughts, but they're a separate issue from the book itsel Prior to reading Good Trouble, I was only dimly aware of the controversy surrounding Joe Biel. I vaguely remember seeing something on Metafilter, and I own several Microcosm titles, but wasn't really tuned in to their context or their significance in the DIY community. After reading Good Trouble, I did some research. Joe (understandably) spends a hefty chunk of the book addressing the controversy, and I wanted to see what was what. I have thoughts, but they're a separate issue from the book itself. It's a very readable, mostly linear memoir - it could do with some more editing, but perhaps that's consistent with the zine culture aesthetic. I picked it up because the title suggested it was about running a successful business while being an Aspie, and that's relevant to my aspirations. I really wish the book had dealt more with that side of things. I mean, I get the focus on Joe's relationships, but I probably wouldn't have read it if it had been given a more accurate title, like Good Trouble: Why My Ex-Wife Is Wrong, or Good Trouble: Why You Should Consider My Aspergers Before You Boycott Microcosm. That sounds snarkier than I meant it. Again, it's readable, and I especially enjoyed reading the sections on Cleveland and getting some more insight to the punk rock/DIY/zine scene. I'm also always interested to hear the perspective of other adults with Aspergers. There were quite a few incidents and observations that were very relatable to me. Joe's place on the spectrum is a little different than mine, but it's always comforting to see those parts of myself reflected in others. It happens rarely enough. I found myself wondering, though - are there really no Aspie zines out there? Is there no one whose work might cross Joe's path who's writing about the Intense World theory, or offering critiques of Simon Baron Cohen? Because seriously, dude. Simon Baron Cohen's work on the subject was valuable, but a lot has happened since he started speculating about theory of mind, extreme male brain, and mirror neurons. The data is increasingly moving against him. The whole mirror neuron thing? Not supported by multiple rounds of research. People on the spectrum do have theory of mind, and we absolutely have empathy. The egocentrism isn't because we think we're the center of the universe - it's because the social world outside us is so loud and so busy and so intense that we protect ourselves by pulling inward. Or, at least, that's the rival perspective I favor. And I found myself in the weeds here despite my best intentions. (Best Intentions: Why My Aspergers Sends Me Off On Tangents In The Middle of Goodreads Reviews.) Tl;dr: Not the best memoir ever, but it gave me a lot to think about. I'm glad I read it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Wigfall

    It's rare for me to say it these days, but I could barely put this book down. Joe told a very engaging story with a lot of detail and introspection. The story follows the trajectory of Joe Biel's life from an abusive family in a suburb of Cleveland, back and forth the US multiple times, and him settling in Portland. One point of pause in the story is the allegations of abuse leveled against Joe by his former partners. Since the story comes across as being very straightforward and not colored by It's rare for me to say it these days, but I could barely put this book down. Joe told a very engaging story with a lot of detail and introspection. The story follows the trajectory of Joe Biel's life from an abusive family in a suburb of Cleveland, back and forth the US multiple times, and him settling in Portland. One point of pause in the story is the allegations of abuse leveled against Joe by his former partners. Since the story comes across as being very straightforward and not colored by emotion or Joe's attempt to clear his name, the claims seemed well-addressed in the book. Overall, I greatly enjoyed the book. It was nice to read - in great detail - about someone's personal development and struggles; more specifically how they felt throughout and how they overcame them.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    I'm so happy that I've discovered this book. It involves many subjects that I'm interested in: punk rock, zines, publishing, Asperger's, and an interesting life. Biel's persistence and passion for continuing his dream of building an ethical and meaningful publishing company is incredibly inspiring. Also, his tales of struggling to relate to and empathize with others due to his disability had me nodding my head in agreement throughout the book. It was also a fascinating look into the punk scenes I'm so happy that I've discovered this book. It involves many subjects that I'm interested in: punk rock, zines, publishing, Asperger's, and an interesting life. Biel's persistence and passion for continuing his dream of building an ethical and meaningful publishing company is incredibly inspiring. Also, his tales of struggling to relate to and empathize with others due to his disability had me nodding my head in agreement throughout the book. It was also a fascinating look into the punk scenes of Cleveland and Portland during his youth. As someone who dreams of working in publishing but struggles with many of the things Biel describes, this book is incredibly inspiring and gives me a lot of hope.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Coltrin

    This was a difficult read for me because, like Joe, I'm got diagnosed with Aspergers in adulthood. So, let's say I empathized hard with a lot of the struggles, especially with interpersonal relationships chronicled herein. But the amazingly strong ending with hope and acknowledgement of the strengths of our supepowers and our ability to continually learn and grow was amazingly powerful. It was worth getting through those difficult chapters, and relive emotions from my own divorce, to get to the This was a difficult read for me because, like Joe, I'm got diagnosed with Aspergers in adulthood. So, let's say I empathized hard with a lot of the struggles, especially with interpersonal relationships chronicled herein. But the amazingly strong ending with hope and acknowledgement of the strengths of our supepowers and our ability to continually learn and grow was amazingly powerful. It was worth getting through those difficult chapters, and relive emotions from my own divorce, to get to the end and to also empathize with the triumphs. Thanks, Joe.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian Solomon

    Interesting style, rough editing. The book is about the misfortunes and successes of a small businessman who mindlessly suffers through undiagnosed Aspergers. Biel takes the filter off to have a serious look at his decades long struggle of building a successful publishing company while juggling a manipulative wife. Its worth reading.

  7. 4 out of 5

    M

    I didn't know pizza delivery was so lucrative. I didn't know pizza delivery was so lucrative.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alberto Zanrosso

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vitaly Osipov

  10. 5 out of 5

    C K P

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Pulignani

  12. 4 out of 5

    Natasha

  13. 4 out of 5

    Set Sytes

  14. 4 out of 5

    1da

  15. 4 out of 5

    Athena

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mary Tharp

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  19. 4 out of 5

    Crissy

  20. 5 out of 5

    Luke Leighfield

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kurt

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Monica

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  25. 5 out of 5

    pierce geary

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lucianna Wolfstone

  27. 5 out of 5

    Roxanne

    This is a Goodreads win review. This book is educational about having Aspergers to deal with in your life. I have never heard of this person before like some other readers. But how he manages his business and relationships can help others who have this.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Acacia Ives

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

  30. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Gutierrez

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