Hitchhiker’s Guide to Planet Earth: How to Read People’s Minds is a story about a boy named Kierstavon who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Even though he used to feel as though everything was confusing and foreign to him, he now understands some things about how people communicate with one another, and shares these insights with the reader. He tells the reader that a person can read someone’s mind by learning how to look at the nonverbal parts of that person’s communication: facial expressions, gestures, stance, and social distance. He gives a few examples and then focuses in on six universal facial expressions (Paul Ekman’s work) happy, sad, angry, surprised, scared, and disgusted.
One emotion at a time is discussed as Kierstavon points out each component of the face that makes up that particular emotion. He then encourages the reader to practice these skills in a mirror, in order to improve his or her ability to both give and understand those nonverbal cues. This book is an introduction to understanding more accurately what someone might be thinking or feeling by just looking at the person’s face or their body, and essentially, in so doing, to read people’s minds.
Two instructional sections for people who love and work with folks on the Autism Spectrum are presented at the end of the book: one on how to use the book, and the other is four additional exercises that can be used with individuals on the spectrum to help them practice reading and understanding non-verbal cues.