Meet: Augusten Burroughs

A while back, I read a Thought Catalog article by David Cain that inspired me. It was titled, “5 Self-help books that actually helped.” I recall the summer when I suddenly decided I was really into psychology and self- improvement, so I took a trip to the library, and spent a good long time in the self-help section. I never really payed much attention to the nonfiction side of the library, but now, it’s the only side I pay attention to. I don’t know why this happened. It just did.

Personally, I don’t think self-help books are all that helpful. They aren’t interesting. They don’t capture my attention. I end up actually adding stress to my life, due to my habit of checking out book after book and letting them pile up on my bedroom floor. Five weeks later, I owe $4.20 in fines. Oops.

So… I took a break from that section and moved on to an interest in world religions and Christianity. I built up some knowledge of my faith and maybe tried to understand where others were coming from in their faith…

And then I read this article, and I thought, Hmm. Maybe these really are the five self-help books out there worth reading. 

I checked them out. Yes, David, I did. But four of them weren’t good. Four of them really didn’t help, as much as encourage and relax, which is fine. In fact, I needed to relax, and one of the books really helped me to do so. It caused me to realize I was letting life get to me. I turned on some quiet music, and read the meditative words over and over again. (Shortly after, I went on a mad rampage and tore down all my pictures and art and do-dads all over my walls, wanting to forget the past, not worry about the future, and enjoy the now. But we can forget that part of the night)

There was another book that I was reluctant to pick up, mostly due to the scary picture of the author on the cover… yeahhh…

Anyway, the author is Augusten Burroughs. His book is titled (and this couldn’t be any cheesier or unappealing) This is How: Help For The Self in Overcoming Grief, Fatness, etc. for Young and Old Alike.

Really, Augusten? Honestly, TMI. “This is how” would have been enough for me. Anyway, you can probably see why I was a little reluctant to pick up the book at first. Any self-help book with “self” and “help” somewhere in the title couldn’t possibly be that great.

Now, believe me, this one IS that great.

Let me share a little excerpt of this man’s fantastic writing:

“Miracles do happen. You must believe this. No matter what else you believe about life, you must believe in miracles. Because we are all, every one of us, living on a round rock that spins around and around at almost a quarter of a million miles per hour in an unthinkably vast blackness called space. There is nothing else like us for as far as our telescopic eyes can see. In a universe filled with spinning, barren rocks, frozen gas, ice, dust, and radiation, we live on a planet filled with soft, green leaves and salty oceans and honey made from bees, which themselves live within geometrically complex and perfect structures of their own architecture and creation. In our trees are birds whose songs are as complex and nuanced as Beethoven’s greatest sonatas. And despite the wild, endless spinning of our planet and its never-ending orbit around the sun–itself a star on fire–when we pour water into a glass, the water stays in the glass. All of these are miracles.”

This is the kind of writing I like. Positive, encouraging, useful. It really gets me somewhere. It accomplishes something. It isn’t just words on a page to me. It makes me think. It has a purpose. And this:

“If you have one parent who loves you, even if they can’t buy you clothes, they’re so poor and they make all kinds of mistakes and maybe sometimes they even give you awful advice, but never for one moment do you doubt their love for you–if you have this, you have incredibly good fortune.

I love what he does here, and throughout the entire book. Not only does the book tell you “how,” it tells you how NOW. He doesn’t just mention, “Do with what you have” like many other books I’ve read. No. He tells you what you have, how you might have it, and that’s okay.

Maybe you are sitting there thinking, ok ok, I get it, he writes some pretty nice stuff, but its just writing, and there are a lot of great writers out there.

I challenge you to think negatively for a moment. There are a lot of bad writers out there, too. And if you’re at all like me, and carry half a dozen books home each week just to see how it goes, you will come to know that. When I find a good writer, I kind of freak out. And I think I like Burroughs a lot because his style is modern. It speaks to me, and works with my attitudes and motivations really well. I brought home a couple more of his books. Did I mention he is hilarious? Anyway, you should really look into this guy. He’s awesome, entertaining, and his thoughts are clearly presented and purposeful. I hope you enjoyed what I shared with you and I hope you continue to discover great authors that really speak to you! (and maybe someday you’ll even become one of them :D)


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