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224 of 240 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Actual Advice, March 30, 2012
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This review is from: This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike. (Hardcover)
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Judging by the slightly whimsical cover of this book and having read a couple of Augusten Burroughs' previous memoirs, I was expecting a darkly humorous skewering of the self-help movement and the state of psychiatry today. Burroughs has had a difficult life and has extensive experience with all sorts of social and mental health issues, as well as a lot of time spent with at least one psychiatrist, so I really thought it would be savagely funny.

Wrong! This is actually an honest-to-goodness self-help book. Sure, it might seem to be coming from a somewhat twisted perspective, and flies in the face of a lot of standard tropes of self-help, but Mr. Burroughs has written a serious and probing book about improving one's mental life and dealing with all sorts of issues, from addiction to grief. Each chapter discusses a different topic, and though the chapter headings might point to humor ("How to Fail," "How to End Your Life"), Burroughs has really thought through what he wants to say and lays it out in a mostly straightforward, honest way.

I think that some people will take issue with some of Burroughs' unconventional thoughts on certain issues like AA (he's got problems with it) and using affirmations (against it). He points out the mistakes that people make when thinking about their problems and offers solutions that worked for him. He uses examples from his own life to illustrate his points, instead of the cheery composite characters that most self-help books come up with. I loved that he writes in a straightforward manner and doesn't use ridiculous "systems" (follow the BrightThought principle!) or bullet points to cheerlead you on. It's refreshing to read a more realistic view of the world.

The prose does seem a little dry to me, especially when I was expecting something more humorous or flippant, but it's definitely more readable than the standard self-help book. I didn't agree with everything he said and take it all with a grain of salt, but I think this book holds up as well as anything else written by a psychologist or psychiatrist. It could be helpful for a person who struggles with their problems yet hasn't found a solution in the typical self-help book, a person who doesn't want to try to force themselves to be cheerful all the time or follow prescribed notions of how to be "happy."

I read a pre-publication copy, so I'm hoping that it isn't marketed as humor or memoir because I think people will get the wrong impression. I liked the front cover (it has a little blurry mirror embedded in it and a kind of old-fashioned hucksterish typestyle), but it also gives the impression that it's going to be humor. Frankly, I was a little disappointed and don't think it's his best work, but it seems like it was something that he really needed to write and he genuinely seems to want to help others with his advice.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 24, 2012 3:42:27 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 24, 2012 3:43:20 PM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 14, 2012 1:59:39 PM PDT
donmattesso says:
" not even direct experience", are you even remotely familiar with AB?

Posted on Sep 20, 2012 6:55:39 PM PDT
Herb & Anna says:
I read the free first chapter and wanted to like it, but didn't. I prefer the dark humor.....
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