Augusten Burroughs

Bestselling Memoirist & Novelist
Author of Running With Scissors

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • On Confidence
  • This is How: The Real Truth Behind Everything Can Help you Achieve Anything
  • Simply Sober: A Life Rebuilt
  • Be the Author of Your Life
  • Burroughs & You: 20 Questions
  • Bent: How to be Gay
  • How To End Your Life Without Killing Yourself
  • Memoir as Grand Unifying Experience

“His writing style is remarkably introspective, blunt, relatable, heartbreaking and hilarious.” —VOX Magazine

“Unflinchingly, Augusten Burroughs gouges himself (literally and figuratively), bleeds, gets it on paper—often without a neat resolution or the genre’s obligatory epiphany—and then makes you laugh. Now that’s genius.” —The New York Times Book Review

“One of the most compelling and screamingly funny voices of the new century belongs to Augusten Burroughs. He is blessed with an offbeat perspective and a viciously uncensored wit.” —USA Today

Augusten Burroughs was born in 1965 in Pittsburgh, PA. He was raised in Western Massachusetts and has no formal education beyond grade school. At nineteen he moved on his own to San Francisco where he began a career in advertising. Over the next decade and ahalf, Augusten created award-winning campaigns for some of the world’s most famous brands including American Express, UPS, and Beck’s beer.

All the while, Augusten was a hardcore alcoholic, haunted by his past. Then at the age of thirty-four, Augusten sat down at his computer one ordinary morning and wrote one sentence that made him laugh. He continued writing almost around the clock for the next seven days until he had finished what would become the manuscript of his first published book, the novel Sellevision, released in 2000.

Augusten’s next book was a memoir about his unconventional childhood. Running with Scissors became a publishing phenomenon, remaining at the top of the New York Times bestseller list for nearly three consecutive years. It was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, and Gwyneth Paltrow. He followed that with Dry, a memoir about his experience as an alcoholic trying to get sober in Manhattan. The sometimes caustic, often hilarious, and brutally candid tone of the book resonated with readers—especially other alcoholics and drug addicts—and the people close to them. His third memoir, Lust & Wonder (2016), examines what it means to be in love, what it means to be in lust, and what it means to be figuring it all out.

Augusten’s book This Is How, is a self-help book unlike any other. Written with effortless black humor and piercing insight, he dispenses with familiar, therapist-approved solutions to the obstacles and challenges so many people face and, instead, demonstrates to the reader how only rigorous, sometimes uncomfortable, honesty can truly set a person free. He has two collections of autobiographical essays, Magical Thinking and Possible Side Effects. These too were instant New York Times bestsellers in hardcover and paperback. A Wolf at the Table was published in 2008 and is a harrowing, dark, and terrifying memoir about the author’s childhood relationship with his father. You Better Not Cry is a collection of funny, touching, and unexpectedly joyful holiday stories.

Over the years, Augusten has been the subject of many features in magazines and newspapers, both in America and abroad including a Vanity Fair cover story. He has been named twice to Entertainment Weekly’s annual list of the funniest people in America, contributed numerous commentaries for National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, and for several years authored a monthly column for Details magazine. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The London Times, The Guardian UK, The Sydney Morning Herald, Out, Bark, Attitude, Allure, House & Garden, and many others.

Exciting and entertaining on stage, Augusten is an immensely effective speaker because he connects with audiences of all ages and from all walks of life. There is a universal message—and elemental truth—in what he says that transcends economies, theologies, and philosophies. He delivers real, nutrient-dense substance, straight from the heart of experience and fresh off the cuff. Augusten likes to share what he’s learned with young people who are in the midst of creating their own lives. He likes to give them a small set of tools they can actually use in their own lives. He believes that it’s nice if he’s inspiring, but it’s better if he’s truly useful. Never scripted, Augusten on stage is Augusten at his best.

Augusten lives in New York City right beside the site of the new World Trade Center. He has been taking photographs for more than thirty years and this is what he continues to do in his free time.

Augusten Burroughs’s website

Augusten Burroughs’s photography

Augusten Burroughs is the author of Running with Scissors, which remained at the top of the New York Times bestseller list for nearly three years. His 2016 memoir, Lust & Wonder, examines what it means to be in love, what it means to be in lust, and what it means to be figuring it all out.  His other major books include Dry, a memoir of alcoholism, This is How, a self help book, and A Wolf at the Table, a memoir of Burroughs’s childhood. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The London Times, The Guardian UK, The Sydney Morning Herald, Out, Bark, Attitude, Allure, House & Garden, and many others.

LUST & WONDER (Memoir, 2016)
In chronicling the development and demise of the different relationships he’s had while living in New York, Augusten Burroughs examines what it means to be in love, what it means to be in lust, and what it means to be figuring it all out. With Augusten’s unique and singular observations and his own unabashed way of detailing both the horrific and the humorous, Lust and Wonder is an intimate and honest memoir that his legions of fans have been waiting for.


“The last self-help book you’ll ever need” —Huffington Post

To say that Augusten Burroughs has lived an unusual life is an understatement. From having no formal education past third grade and being raised by his mother’s psychiatrist in the seventies to enjoying one of the most successful advertising careers of the eighties to experiencing a spectacular downfall and rehab stint in the nineties to having a number one bestselling writing career in the new millennium, Burroughs has faced humiliation, transformation, and everything in between. Told with Burroughs’s unique voice, black humor, and in-your-face advice, This is How is Running With Scissors-with recipes.

There is a passage early in Augusten Burroughs’s harrowing and highly entertaining memoir, Running with Scissors, that speaks volumes about the author. While going to the garbage dump with his father, young Augusten spots a chipped, glass-top coffee table that he longs to bring home. “I knew I could hide the chip by fanning a display of magazines on the surface, like in a doctor’s office,” he writes. “And it certainly wouldn’t be dirty after I polished it with Windex for three hours.” There were certainly numerous chips in the childhood Burroughs describes: an alcoholic father, an unstable mother who gives him up for adoption to her therapist, and an adolescence spent as part of the therapist’s eccentric extended family, gobbling prescription meds and fooling around with both an old electroshock machine and a pedophile who lives in a shed out back. But just as he dreamed of doing with that old table, Burroughs employs a vigorous program of decoration and fervent polishing to a life that many would have simply thrown in a landfill. Despite her abandonment, he never gives up on his increasingly unbalanced mother. And rather than despair about his lot, he glamorizes it: planning a “beauty empire” and performing an a capella version of “You Light Up My Life” at a local mental ward. Burroughs’s perspective achieves a crucial balance for a memoir: emotional but not self-involved, observant but not clinical, funny but not deliberately comic. And it’s ultimately a feel-good story: as he steers through a challenging childhood, there’s always a sense that Burroughs’s survivor mentality will guide him through and that the coffee table will be salvaged after.

LUST & WONDER (memoir excerpt)

If you are a kid who came from a garbage dump of a life and your feet have inch-thick calluses because even shoes feel oppressive and your hair is as long as you can grow it because it is fucking yours and you wear sunglasses all the time so that nobody can see your eyes and be able to tell that, despite all appearances to the contrary, you were carved from a solid block of goodness and kindness and grace but are now so ruined and so young that there is not one logical reason for anybody to believe you will ever be anything—somehow, you just know. You know. If you are this person, I happen to know from personal experience that San Francisco will not merely welcome you. San Francisco will give you the longest, hottest bath you have ever had. It will drape a fresh, white cotton shirt over your shoulders, and even though this shirt will be three sizes too big, it will fit you better than any shirt ever has or ever will. And once you are sitting in an overstuffed armchair that has been warmed for you by a cat, San Francisco will muss your hair. You will have some milk and one of those thick brownies with a shiny top that shatters when you bite it. And then, as you walk down the long hallway toward your bedroom, San Francisco’s fishnet stocking–clad leg will suddenly rise up and block your way. San Francisco will smile and say, “Hon? Either brush those teeth or donate them to the pointy end of my boot.” And you will brush your teeth and never have another cavity. Until you’re forty. Then San Francisco will tuck you into bed like you are a baby, and this will not embarrass you at all. And even though you’re nineteen, San Francisco will leave the light on; you won’t even have to ask. And when you wake up, San Francisco will be the first thing you see when you open your eyes. And it will say to you, “You know it. And I know it. Get out there and make them see it.”

HOW TO BE SICK (excerpt)

Some people misunderstand the phrase “nothing worth having comes easy.” They think it means hard work. Like, if they get into the office an hour before everyone else and they don’t mess around online they’ll be rewarded with The Good Things in life.
It has nothing to do with hard work.
What that phrase really means is, the most valuable moments and experiences that life has to offer are found only along its most treacherous paths.

—from This is How

DRY (memoir excerpt)

The very last thing I remember is standing on a stage at a karaoke bar somewhere in the West Village. The spotlights are shining in my face and I’m trying to read the video monitor in front of me, which is scrolling the words to the theme from The Brady Bunch. I see double unless I close one eye, but when I do this I lose my balance and stagger. Jim’s laughing like a madman in the front row, pounding the table with his hands.

The floor trips me and I fall. The bartender walks from behind the bar and escorts me offstage. His arm feels good around my shoulders and I want to give him a friendly nuzzle or perhaps a kiss on the mouth. Fortunately, I don’t do this.

Outside the bar, I look at my watch and slur, “This can’t be right.” I lean against Jim’s shoulder so I don’t fall over on the tricky sidewalk.

“What?” he says, grinning. He has a thin plastic drink straw behind each ear. The straws are red, the ends chewed.

I raise my arm up so my watch is almost pressed against his nose. “Look,” I say.

He pushes my arm back so he can read the dial. “Yikes! How’d that happen? You sure it’s right?”

The watch reads 4:15 A.M. Impossible. I wonder aloud why it is displaying the time in Europe instead of Manhattan.

RUNNING WITH SCISSORS (memoir excerpt)

My shiny bookshelves are lined with treasures. Empty cans, their labels removed, their ribbed steel skins polished with silver polish. I wish they were gold. I have rings there, rings from our trip to Mexico when I was five. Also on the shelves: pictures of jewelry cut from magazines, glued to cardboard and propped upright; one of the good spoons from the sterling silver my grandmother sent my parents when they were married; silver my mother hates (“God-awful tacky”) and a small collection of nickels, dimes and quarters, each of which has been boiled and polished with silver polish while watching Donnie and Marie or Tony Orlando and Dawn.

I love shiny things, I love stars. Someday, I want to be a star, like my mother, like Maude.

The sliding doors to my closet are covered with mirror squares I bought with my allowance. The mirrors have veins of gold streaking through them. I stuck them to the doors myself.

I will aim my desk lamp into the center of the room and stand in its light, looking at myself in the mirror. “Hand me that box,” I will say to my reflection. “Something isn’t right here.”