Tomorrow, December 28th, the last segment of the nonfiction book This is How: Help for the Self is airing, and I will miss it. I’ll miss the Squirrel Nut Zippers-like opening and closing music, the sheer length of the title (the official name on the cover is This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Leshery, Decrepitude and More for Young and Old Alike by Augusten Burroughs). I’ll also miss the calm, comforting voice of volunteer James Bartelle reading the text, and the wealth of valuable advice I received from my small office radio throughout the course of its run. Augusten Burroughs is one of my favorite authors and I’ve relished reading his other books, among them Running With Scissors, A Wolf At The Table, and Dry, so I was expecting the same self deprecating sense of humor and outrageous scenarios I’d associated with his memoirs, but surprise! this book was different. For starters, it is categorized as a “self help” book. Self help? Isn’t that code for “this book will only discourage you from changing anything due to its smug know-it-all-ness and complete lack of empathy for your situation”? Nope, not this one. It is deeply personal, honest, gentle and not at all smug. With chapters like “How to Be a Good Mental Patient” and “How to Live Unhappily Ever After”, Burroughs retains his sense of humor and sardonic wit, but lets his vulnerability and compassion emerge with chapters like “How to Hold On To Your Dream or Maybe Not”, and “How to Lose Someone You Love.” The chapter “How To Let a Child Die” had me holding my breath, unwilling to move lest I miss a word. His version of “self help” is meaningful, hopeful, wise, inspiring, and filled with truth. In other words, it is useful advice: offering real “help for the self”.
My advice? Read this book.