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Burroughs is always, candidly, shockingly, frighteningly honest
Augusten Burroughs enters the realm of self-help
Hardcover. 230 pp.
May 8, 2012. St. Martin's Press.
If you have read any of Augusten Burroughs' previous memoirs, beginning with the New York Times best-selling Running With Scissors, you are probably aware of his unorthodox childhood -- a story so bizarre and complex and rich that it's not fair for me to even attempt to summarize it. Needless to say, Burroughs grew up quickly and his adolescence and early adulthood has been full of enough speed bumps and screwed-up experiences that he's been able to churn out six memoirs best-selling memoirs about his life that are hilarious, deep, honest, and open without becoming redundant.
Now, some people might think that a former alcoholic who almost drank himself to death and sexual abuse victim who grew up in two broken homes and didn't get much further than elementary school would be a terrible choice to write a book to help others live their lives. Those people are assholes. Augusten Burroughs is the perfect person to write a self-help book, and that's why This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Grief, Molestation, Disease, Fatness, Lushery, Spinsterhood, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike (St. Martin's Press, May 8, 2012) is unlike any other self-help type book that I've ever read.
Since, first and foremost, This Is How is about honesty, I'll be honest. There have been times in my past where I've felt the need to turn to a self-help book in order to try to figure out who I was or where I was. And, every single time that I picked up a self-help book, I've made it three or four chapters deep before saying, "This is bullshit" and tossing it aside. That's why I hesitate to even call This Is How a self-help book -- because it transcends the genre while also defining it.
This Is How is a book about being honest with yourself and others in order to find yourself and find your way. Burroughs tackles topics with chapters such as "How To Find Love", "How To Be Thin", "How To Change the World By Yourself" -- things that you might find in other self-help books. But there are also chapters like "How To Feel Like Shit", "How To Be Fat", "How To Remain Unhealed", "How To End Your Life", and "How to Hold On To Your Dream or Maybe Not". With his characteristic candor and straightforward style, I agree that this is the book Augusten Burroughs was born to write.
Other self-help books never connected with me because they've never felt real. The examples that the authors shared never felt real; their stories or metaphors were milquetoast and placid. Burroughs, however, shares experiences that are raw and visceral. With sparse sentences that are somehow packed full of knowledge, Burroughs makes the point, over-and-over again, that living your life is being in the moment and being yourself, always honest and always on.
Because Burroughs is a funny dude and has written such fascinating books, I feel like many people will look at This Is How as if he is being cynical or sarcastic. Unless he totally got one over on me, he's not. This Is How is truly meant to help people, and because Burroughs brings many of the lessons he learned back to the necessity of honesty, I think the book can really help people focus on what's important. And, sometimes, what is important is the fact that you can't get over all of your problems and issues. Instead, you can recognize that, and move past them and move forward, into the now, so you can progress into tomorrow.
It's ironic that in This Is How, Burroughs tries to break down complex experiences from life's lessons into simple solutions -- and does so with modest language that is still somehow literary in the same way that Hemingway's austerity was its own type of art -- and it works. I mean, I usually check out of self-help books immediately, but I'll say it: This Is How helped me. I started reading it because it was written by Augusten Burroughs, but I finished reading it because I was thoroughly captivated and
finding answers to issues that I recognized within myself.
This Is How doesn't unlock the secrets of life because there are no secrets to life. Above everything else, honesty is the key, and Burroughs is always, candidly, shockingly, frighteningly honest. And to quote Burroughs from This Is How, "If that sounds too reductive, remember we crawled from the swamp. Simple isn't such a terrible thing to be in this respect."
In amazing books like Running With Scissors, Dry, and Magical Thinking, Augusten Burroughs told you about his life; in This Is How, he helps you recognize things about yours.
This Is How: Help for the Self: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Grief, Molestation, Disease, Fatness, Lushery, Spinsterhood, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike by Augusten Burroughs will be released on May 8th by St. Martin's Press. Order the book now from Amazon, or for your Kindle. Augusten Burroughs is on Twitter @Augusten and his website is www.augusten.com.
Anthony Bergen, Senior Literary Editor: Anthony Bergen is a writer and Presidential historian based in Sacramento, California. His historical work has been published by numerous outlets and historical associations including pieces for the New Hampshire Historical Society's Franklin Pierce Bicentennial, ConsiderableThoughts.com and the National Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial celebration. Anthony has also been a contributing joke-writer for several touring stand-up comedians and "The KiddChris Show" on Portland's KUFO FM.