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May 9, 2012

Book Notes - Augusten Burroughs "This Is How"

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Augusten Burroughs' This Is How is a biographical essay collection in the form of a self-help book, and is filled with the smart, honest, and darkly funny prose he is known for.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"As always, Burroughs is smart and energetically forthright about living and loving."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.


In his own words, here is Augusten Burroughs' Book Notes music playlist for his book, This Is How: Help for the Self in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike:


The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saƫns

If my childhood had a soundtrack, this might be what plays over the credits. I'm not sure it would have fit so well over the actual moments themselves, but in retrospect, in summary, it definitely works. Even if this song doesn't in any way reflect your own experience childhood, the hope is that it gets you asking yourself, "Well, if this doesn't, what one song does?" What one song closes the curtain on childhood for you, as at the same time the doors to adolescence swing wide open.


"Ribbons" by Ingrid Michaelson

Realizing the big relationship in your life is with the wrong person for you is one of the most re-arranging experiences you can have and what I love about this song is that this realization is woven into the most optimistic, explosive, incredibly satisfying chorus. And to me, that makes the song itself, even though it's about something most people would consider "dark" but which is actually transformative and good (if painful), inspiring and fun and just like one of those soundtracks of your life kinds of songs.


"All The Kings Men" by Wild Beasts

Though I like it so much more live because there's just nothing that compares to Hayden Thorpe's actual howl slash yodel thingamajig that he does with his voice. "Watch me, watch me, oooooooooo," as a phrase gets slung around inside your chest like a rock tied to the end of a long string and kind of reminds you about the importance of the unexpected, the unplanned for, and that which you can't fully grasp.


"Rainy Days and Mondays" by The Carpenters

It's the opposite of the dangerous cliche, "I just want to be happy." Seriously, those six words can fuck you up for life. This song is the antidote to that because it's really such a beautiful song about not being particularly happy. You could almost think of it as a second-cousin first removed from blues.


"Who Are Parents?" by The Shaggs

There aren't words. I don't even know why this goes so well with my book but it absolutely does. The song itself, the fact that it exists because he pulled his daughters out of school, made them take music lessons and form a band, rushed them into the studio to cut an album, all because his dead wife had premonitions, two of which had previously come true. Her third was that the girls would gain notoriety as a band and, well, they did. It's perfectly insane.


"I Didn't Know My Own Strength" by Whitney Houston

This Diane Warren song was featured on Whitney Houston's final album but it's her live performances on the song during her world tour that I love. Her voice is shot, coated with gravel and broken glass and she's out of breath but when she hits those notes and her voice soars anyway, it's more beautiful to me than Whitney at her finest in the 1990's. "Lost touch with my soul, I had nowhere to turn, I had nowhere to go. Lost sight of my dream, thought it would be the end of me." And sadly, it was. But that's the thing about addiction, not everybody recovers. But I can't help it; with her ravaged voice and determined, heroic effort, Whitney Houston on this track soars like she never did before.


"Bruises" by Train featuring Ashley Monroe

I'm just really into this song because it reflects so much of what I believe in. "These bruises make for better conversation." It's about how each of us is damaged and if we're here, we're still here. But this doesn't way it down, it's exactly as hooky and Train-y as you'd expect it to be with one significant difference: her name is Ashley Monroe (of Pistol Annies) and I never realized how much I like her voice. She's a more metallic Dolly Parton, maybe.


"Come Back Down" by Greg Laswell

I love the big, big sound sound of it; the echoing drums, the piercing piano line and Laswell's melancholy, sumptuous vocals display a power and dynamic range that propels the song forward and up. Sara Bareilles is featured like a beautiful gem as she sings, "All of your wallowing isn't becoming."


"How I Got Over" by Mahalia Jackson

I grew up listening to Gospel music; it was like food for me. Specifically, it was like M&M's and potato chips that I could not stop devouring. I shoplifted my mother's Mahalia Jackson albums from the old wooden trunk where she kept them and I brought them to my bedroom and made them my own. For a kid who believed that there wasn't anything up there except stars and more stars, I sure did praise an awful lot of Lord.


Augusten Burroughs and This Is How links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Booktopia Blog review
Kirkus Reviews review
More review
Publishers Weekly review
Vox Magazine review

am New York interview with the author
Boston Herald profile of the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay (with Tegan Quin and Ingrid Michaelson)) for A Wolf at the Table
Publishers Weekly interview with the author
Shelf Life interview with the author
Vanity Fair interview with the author
Wall Street Journal essay by the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists


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