Magical Thinking: True Stories

( 134 )


From the #1 bestselling author of Running with Scissors and Dry--a contagiously funny, heartwarming, shocking, twisted, and absolutely magical collection. True stories that give voice to the thoughts we all have but dare not mention. It begins with a Tang Instant Breakfast Drink television commercial when Augusten was seven. Then there is the contest of wills with the deranged cleaning lady. The execution of a rodent carried out with military precision and utter horror. Telemarketing revenge. Dating an undertaker...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$11.76 price
(Save 26%)$16.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (213) from $1.99   
  • New (10) from $8.44   
  • Used (203) from $1.99   
Magical Thinking: True Stories

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99 price


From the #1 bestselling author of Running with Scissors and Dry--a contagiously funny, heartwarming, shocking, twisted, and absolutely magical collection. True stories that give voice to the thoughts we all have but dare not mention. It begins with a Tang Instant Breakfast Drink television commercial when Augusten was seven. Then there is the contest of wills with the deranged cleaning lady. The execution of a rodent carried out with military precision and utter horror. Telemarketing revenge. Dating an undertaker and much more. A collection of true stories that are universal in their appeal yet unabashedly intimate and very funny.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Augusten Burroughs is always prepared for the worst. When Running with Scissors came out, he expected it to sell "about seven copies." Instead, this meandering self-exploration turned into a national bestseller. Even Burroughs gained optimism: "It was just great. It allowed me to continue writing and not have to publish myself at Kinko's." By the evidence of Magical Thinking, Kinko's has permanently lost a client and we have gained an engaging author. Burroughs himself describes these true stories as "weird things that have happened to me." The weird things include an epic contest of wills with a deranged cleaning lady; a story about the emotional complexity of rodent annihilation; and a cautionary history of failed first dates. Touching; twisted; absolutely magical.
USA Today

One of the most compelling and screamingly funny voices of the new century belongs to Augusten Burroughs. . . . Burroughs is blessed with an offbeat perspective and a viciously uncensored wit, a delight to read.
Vanity Fair

Augusten Burroughs shows why he is the memoirist-of-the-moment with his harrowing and laugh-out-loud new essay collection, Magical Thinking.
People(four stars)

Ruthlessly funny . . . deliciously perverse . . . he extracts something funny from every shred of his own warped experience. Magical Thinking indeed.
Entertainment Weekly(A-)

Sports nuts have Dave Barry, Midwesterners have Garrison Keillor, and the rest of us--gay guys, misfits, those with horrific childhoods--have Burroughs.…He hooks you into a story better than anybody.
Rocky Mountain News (Denver)

Every so often a 'writer's writer' pops up and deliciously ambushes readers--writers like David Sedaris, Larry Brown, and Frank McCourt. . . . Augusten Burroughs deserves membership to this inner circle. . . . Magical Thinking is finely-honed and addicting . . . Miraculous.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Deeply satisfying, full of both gleeful one-liners and shocking instances of profound wisdom . . . There are few writers as outrageously magical or as surprisingly thoughtful as Augusten Burroughs.
Boston Herald

A literary favorite--right up there with humorists David Sedaris and Laurie Notaro . . . Fascinating.
Booklist(starred review)

Superlatively disturbed . . . A brand-new collection of deliciously lurid true tales…offer[s] an irresistible display of sanity hanging by a thread.
The Seattle Times

Still wild, sad, funny, tender, and frightening . . . It's all about the journey. Do go along. Just be sure to pack some tissues for the laughing and the crying.
Publishers Weekly
It would be tempting to call these highly personal and uninhibited essays painfully honest, except that Burroughs (Running with Scissors; Dry) is so forthright about his egocentricity that the revelations don't appear to cause him much pain. He approaches his material with a blithe tone that oozes sarcasm and crocodile tears. But the palpable humor of the writing itself endears listeners to him enough that they won't be completely repelled by even Burroughs's ugliest moments (which include his less than gallant reaction to accidentally stepping on a toddler's fingers in a store). His performance is off the cuff, but even when he's at his least humane, he still comes across as all too human. He adopts the same openness that made his previous memoirs-dealing with his bizarre upbringing and battle with addiction-so successful; now, however, he's focusing on less serious subject matter and displaying failings that are more vain. Burroughs excels in his personifications of others, whether portraying a domineering cleaning woman or an overbearing boss. While some may secretly wish for the death of such a boss, though, Burroughs admits openly and proudly that he believes he can will it to happen. That attitude, which is accentuated by his reading, makes this audiobook a true guilty pleasure. Simultaneous release with the St. Martin's hardcover (Forecasts, July 12). (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Like Burroughs's earlier books (Running with Scissors; Dry) these humorous stories draw on the author's unstable childhood, work in advertising, struggle with alcoholism, and quest for fulfillment as a writer and a gay man. They treat a wide range of topics, from a gay couple's search for a summer home to homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood. Whether writing about the prevalence of steroid use by gay men or the murder of a mouse in the bathtub, Burroughs uses the same light touch. While his stories may at times shock or even disgust readers, they are redeemed in the end by laughter. Like the narrator in the title story, Burroughs wants to believe he has some control over the universe, or at least a tenuous connection to a higher power. A gifted satirist, Burroughs offers hilarity in the face of despair, and loyal readers of his earlier best sellers will welcome this new collection. Recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/04.]-William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib, CUNY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“There is a dusting of David Sedaris in Burroughs’s style, a laughing-through-your-tears candor that’s as appealing as the situations are appalling.”—BookPage

Praise for Dry:

“His performance blends self-deprecating black humor with wise-cracking confidence. His natural (or hard-learned) wit and charm keep the listener rooting for his success.”—AudioFile

“There’s an emotional truth that comes through here, along with a vivid prose style and a nice talent for reading in the voices of various participants in the tale. All together, it makes for a memoir well worth listening to.”—The Providence Journal

“As effective as the printed books are, the audiobook editions—which Burroughs himself presents—offer an even more sublime personal mixture of humor and revelation.” —

Praise for Running with Scissors:

“Burroughs’s account of his deranged adolescence is clear-eyed and often wildly funny. To hear it not only in his own words, but in his own voice in this fine production

is ideal.” —AudioFile

“The writing is exceptional, fast-paced and captivating. Ditto the narration.”—Kliatt

Augusten’s narration of his previous books received universal acclaim. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called Running with Scissors a “flawless audio adaptation of his alternately riotous and heartbreaking memoir,” describing Burroughs’s voice “as mutable and unique as his unconventional childhood.”

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312315955
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 200,085
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Running with Scissors, Dry, and, most recently, Possible Side Effects, which have also been New York Times bestsellers and are published around the world. A film version of Running with Scissors was adapted for the screen by Ryan Murphy. Augusten has been named one of the fifteen funniest people in America by Entertainment Weekly. He lives in New York City and western Massachusetts.


Although Augusten Burroughs achieved moderate success with his debut novel, Sellevision, it was his 2002 memoir, Running with Scissors, that catapulted him into the literary stratosphere. Indeed, few writers have spun a bizarre childhood and eccentric personal life into literary gold with as much wit and panache as Burroughs, whose harrowing accounts of dysfunction and addiction are offset by an acerbic humor readers and critics find irresistible.

Born Christopher Robison (he changed his name when he turned 18), Burroughs is the son of an alcoholic father who abandoned his family and a manic-depressive mother who fancied herself a poet in the style of Anne Sexton. At age 12, he was farmed out to his mother's psychiatrist, a deeply disturbed -- and disturbing -- man whose medical license was ultimately revoked for gross misconduct. In Running with Scissors, Burroughs recounts his life with the pseudonymous Finch family as an experience tantamount to being raised by wolves. The characters he describes are unforgettable: children of assorted ages running wild through a filthy, dilapidated Victorian house, totally unfettered by rules or inhibitions; a variety of deranged patients who take up residence with the Finches seemingly at will; and a 33-year-old pedophile who lives in the backyard shed and initiates an intense, openly homosexual relationship with the 13-year-old Burroughs right under the doctor's nose.

That he is able to wring humor and insight out of this shocking scenario is testimony to Burroughs's writing skill. Upon its publication in 2002, Scissors was hailed as "mordantly funny" (Los Angeles Times), "hilarious" (San Francisco Chronicle), and "sociologically suggestive and psychologically astute" (The New York Times). The book became a #1 bestseller and was turned into a 2006 movie starring Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, and Joseph Fienes.

[Although the doctor who "raised" Burroughs was never named in the memoir, six members of the real-life family sued the author and his publisher for defamation, claiming that whole portions of the book were fabricated. Burroughs insisted that the book was entirely accurate but agreed in the 2007 settlement to change the wording of the author's note and acknowledgement in future editions of the book. He was never required to change a single word of the memoir itself.]

Since Running with Scissors, Burroughs has mined snippets of his life for more bestsellers, including further installments of his memoir (Dry, A Wolf at the Table) and several well-received collections of razor-sharp essays. His writing continues to appear in newspapers and magazines around the world, and he is a regular contributor to National Public Radio's Morning Edition.

Good To Know

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Burroughs:

"When I was very young, maybe six or seven, I used to make little books out of construction paper and wallpaper. Then I'd sew the spine of the book with a needle and thread. Only after I had the actual book did I sit down with a pencil and write the text. I actually still have one of these little books and it's titled, obliquely, Little Book."

"Well, all of a sudden I am obsessed with PMC. For those of you who think I am speaking about plastic plumbing fixtures, I am not. PMC stands for Precious Metal Clay. And it works just like clay clay. You can shape it into anything you want. But after you fire it, you have something made of solid 22k gold or silver. So you want to be very careful. Anyway, I plan to make dog tags. So there's something."

"I'm a huge fan of English shortbread cookies, of anything English really. I very nearly worship David Strathairn. And I'm afraid that if I ever return to Sydney, Australia, I may not return."

"I will never refuse potato chips or buttered popcorn cooked in one of those thingamajigs you crank on top of the stove."

"And my politics could be considered extreme, as I truly believe that people who molest or otherwise abuse children should be buried in pits. And I do believe our country has been served by white male presidents quite enough for the next few hundred years. I really could go on and on here, so I'd best stop."

Read More Show Less
    1. Also Known As:
      Augusten X. Burroughs
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York and western Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 23, 1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      No formal education beyond elementary school
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Commercial Break

When I was seven, I was plucked from my uneventful life deep in darkest Massachusetts and dropped into a Tang Instant Breakfast Drink commercial. It was exactly like being abducted by aliens except without the anal probe. I was a lonely kid with entirely imaginary friends. I played with trees.

Then, one day during penmanship class, a white van pulled up in front of our little gray schoolhouse, and the men from Tang climbed out. My elementary school sat atop a low grassy hill in the center of Shutesbury, a small New England town that was so "small New England town" one had the sensation of existing within a snow globe at a souvenir shop. The mailboxes at the local post office had ornate brass doors with etched-glass windows. There was a white church with solid mahogany pews and a pipe organ. A small red library was tucked on the edge of the town square and carried books about local birds and field mice. It was retchingly quaint.

Of course, in this wholesome idyllic community, my school was the anchor. It was a gray clapboard building, two stories tall, with shutters. There was a steeple on top and inside a bell that worked. The door was bright red. There were two apple trees on either side. The playground consisted of a sandbox, two swing sets, and an area of blacktop on which was painted a hopscotch outline.

Now that I am an adult and have wasted much of my life as an advertising executive, I can easily imagine the conversation that must have taken place among the occupants of that van, upon their seeing my schoolhouse.

"So Cronkite was grilling the guy, you know? Just really asking the tough questions. Then they cut away to Nixon, and boy oh boy, you should have seen his face. It was li-"

"Jesus fucking Christ, Mitch. Get a load of that."

"Huh? Oh, mother of fucking God. STOP THE VAN."

"Christ, there's even a bell on top."

"Love those trees. But are those actually apples? Christ, yes, those are apples. The client's gonna hate that. Apples clash with the orange flavor."

"So we'll cut 'em down and throw up a couple of maple trees. What's the fucking difference?"

"You know, you couldn't build a set this perfect in Burbank, you really couldn't. This is so New England schoolhouse. We have hit pay dirt, gents. I think we've got a few triple martinis ahead of us tonight."

I was sitting in Mrs. Ames's tedious penmanship class looking out the window when the white van pulled into the circular driveway. I watched as a window was rolled halfway down and two lit cigarettes were tossed out. Then the doors opened, and the men stepped out.

Mrs. Ames noticed, too, because she paused in the middle of looping a D. When she turned her ancient neck to the window, my mind added the sound effect of a branch creaking under the weight of snow before it snaps. I was quite sure that Mrs. Ames was one of the original settlers of the town. She once said that television was "nonsense, just a fad like radio."

Visitors were uncommon at our school. Especially visitors dressed in dark suits, wearing sunglasses, and carrying black briefcases. These were like the men who followed President Nixon around and whispered things in his ear.

"Remain seated and do not talk," Mrs. Ames said, glaring at us down the point of her nose. "I shall return in a moment." She quickly brushed her hands down the front of her heavy gray wool skirt to remove any wrinkles. She straightened the dainty single pearl that hung around her neck, centering it perfectly between her breasts, which were certainly bound with ace bandages beneath her crisp white shirt.

The group of men removed their sunglasses in unison, raised their chins in the air, and inhaled. I could tell they were inhaling because they slapped at their chests and flared their nostrils. It was a familiar gesture. Many of my mother's friends from New York City or Boston did the same thing when they came to Shutesbury.

Personally, I could never understand why, because the air was thick with pollen and insects. If one wanted fresh air, why not just open the door to the clothes drier and stick your face in there?

One of the men approached the school, came right up to the window, and knocked on the wood next to the glass. "It's real, all right," he called back to his associates.

A moment later, Mrs. Ames joined the men outside and, to my horror, smiled. I'd never seen Mrs. Ames smile before, and the thought had never occurred to me that such an act was even possible for her. But there it was, her mouth open in the white daylight, her teeth exposed. One of the men stepped forward, removed his sunglasses, and said something to her. She touched her hair with her hand and laughed. Kimberly Plumme, who liked to insert marbles into her vagina at recess, said, "Gross." Her lips frowned in disgust. I myself was horrified to see Mrs. Ames laugh. And then blush. To see her in such a state of obvious bliss was unbearable. I had to look away.

Eventually, Mrs. Ames walked back into the room, and I watched her legs, all plump and plastic-looking through her support hose. She wore high heels of an unfashionable style that made a sharp, angry sklack against the tile floor when she walked. She was kind only to the girls. And by "kind," I mean she was not mean. She was punishing to the boys, even the prissy, girly boys like me. But for once, she had something to say that interested me.

"Children, children, may I have your attention please?" She clapped her hands together quickly. Smacksmacksmacksmacksmack.

But this was unnecessary because she already had our full attention.

We'd been sitting there waiting for her, not daring to breathe lest we disturb the balance of the universe, causing her to fall and die and then not be able to tell us why the men had come to our school.

Or worse: somehow cause the men to simply drive away.

"We have some very special surprise guests here today." She looked to the door and nodded, and the men entered the room. "Hi kids," they said. "Hi there, everyone."

It was thrilling to hear them speak in their deep, baritone voices and to see, up close, the dark razor stubble that shadowed their chins. At the same time, an exotic aroma entered the room, one that made me feel light-headed and flushed, like I'd been on a pogo stick.

Only as an adult would I be able to name this intoxicating scent: English Leather.

Mrs. Ames continued. "These men are from New York City. And I hope you all know where f0 New York City is. Because we have studied our geography quite a bit this year. Does everyone here know where New York City is?"

We nodded yes, but we all thought, What's the matter with you, crazy old witch? Why is your face so red?

Although it alarmed me to recognize that my own face was red, as well. Something about the presence of the men made both Mrs. Ames and me turn red and become hot. The fact that we had this in common made me wonder what was wrong with me.

"Good. Well, then. These men are here to make a television commercial."

Here, I almost peed. She might as well have told me that as of today, I never had to come to school ever again and for that matter was free to hit anybody I wanted to, without being punished. I lived for television commercials. The only reason I watched TV was so that I

could see the commercials. Faberge Organics Shampoo: "I told two friends. And they told two friends. And so on . . . and so on . . . and so on." Or my current favorite: "Gee, your hair smells terrific!"

I was also fond of the commercial with the dog chasing the chuck wagon underneath the kitchen sink: "It makes its own rich gravy." I watched one of the men scan the faces in the room. Occasionally he would jab his friend on the shoulder and nod in the direction of one

of the students. As I was watching him he caught my eye and smiled. I thought he was a very friendly man, very nice. I admired his crisp dark suit, white shirt, and black tie. His hair was thick and glossy, combed back. I smiled at him. He nudged his friend and nodded in my

direction, and then the other man looked at me. He smiled, too. I wanted to jump up out of my seat and run to the men, hugging them around the legs. I wanted to lick the hair on their wrists.

Mrs. Ames announced to the class, "These men would like to use our schoolhouse in a commercial for their special beverage. It's called Tang. Do any of you know Tang?"

There were gasps in the room. Of course we knew Tang, the orange crystalline powder that the astronauts brought with them to outer space. I loved Tang and would sometimes eat it by the teaspoon, straight from the jar. I loved the green label, the orange lid. The way the lid was extra wide and easy to unscrew. I even liked the paper eardrum that was over the mouth of the lid when you first opened the jar. You had to puncture the eardrum with a spoon, and

printed on top was "Tang, Tang, Tang."


My mother despised Tang. "I've just made this fresh tangerine juice and put it into this nice clay pitcher I bought at the Leverette Arts Center, and you want that god-awful artificial junk."

She did like cinnamon DYNAMINTS, though.

Mrs. Ames told us that the men from the van wanted to use some of us in their commercial.

"Not all of you, now. Only some of you. They're going to have to choose."

Instantly, the students began raising their hands. Except for me.

Some voice inside me said, "Don't do it. It's beneath you."

Instead, I sat politely at my desk with my hands clasped firmly together. I was very pleased that I'd thought to wear my fourteen-karat-gold electroplated ID bracelet that day. One thing was certain: I would be in their Tang commercial. And if any of the other children tried to get in my way, I would use my pencil to blind them.

"So these men would like to separate everybody into groups and then ask each group a few questions."

Chaos erupted as the kids began to screech with excitement. Desks were shoved back, chairs knocked over. Mrs. Ames tried to gain control of her students by slapping her ruler against the edge of her globe. "Now, now, now, silence! Stop this! Children, come to attention at once!"

Reluctantly, the class came to attention, facing the flag and placing their hands over their hearts, ready to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

"No, not that," she said. "Just stand still and be silent."

Eventually, we were split up into groups of three. Then group by group the men met with the kids.

I stared hatefully at the back of Lisa Tucker's fat head. I was trying to determine where the odor she emitted was coming from. A hole? Some sort of vent for her brain? I hated Lisa, and so did everyone else. She smelled like feet and something worse, something spoiled and eggy. And she was mean. She was a strong girl who pushed the boys around. Her older brother, Tommy, was one of the big kids who went to the new school down the street. Once he hit me so hard he knocked the wind out of me. I wished that Lisa and Tommy would go swimming in the ocean and be eaten by Jaws. Surely the men would know not to cast her in their commercial.


When it was finally my turn, the men were tired, as evidenced by their loosened ties and the large wet spots that spread from under their arms. They'd spoken to all thirty kids and had notes splayed out on the table in front of them. They looked funny sitting in our small chairs, which had never seemed small before.

The man who had first smiled at me said, "Hi guys. So do any of you want to be in a commercial?" He looked at me when he said this, and I got the feeling that he had already chosen me. His eyes said, You are special and better than all the other children, and I would like you to come live with me and my blue eyes in a city far away from here. His eyes said, I will save you.

We all nodded our heads yes.

"Good then. Good. So what I want to do is, I want to see if you can laugh. I'm gonna tell you a joke, and I just want to see what you sound like when you laugh. Ready?"

The other children nodded, I thought, like puppets. I smiled and winked at him, like I'd seen people do on TV.

He winked back and nudged the man on his left.

"Okay," he said. Then he raised his voice and made a comical face.

"Your mother wears army boots!"

Neither of the other kids laughed.

I tossed my head back in an explosion of delight and laughed so hard I was able to bring tears to my eyes. My face was flushed, my hands dripping with sweat from the pressure.

"Wow," said the man. "You really liked that joke, did you?"

His friend turned to him. "Yeah, Phil, you're a real laugh-riot."

I quickly looked back and forth between the two men, but I wasn't sure what was going on between them. Had I laughed before the punch line? Or was it a trick joke? Had I just blown my chance?

"Do you kids like Tang?" he asked.

The other two kids nodded grimly.

"I love Tang!" I gushed. "Only I like to make it with an extra scoop. Plus, you can put it in ice cube trays and then freeze it! That's really good."


Where had that come from? I'd never in my life frozen Tang.

"That's great!" said the man with the blue eyes who was going to take me away to live with him in a penthouse apartment.

All of the men exchanged a look. Then my man said, "Thanks a lot, kids."

Disgusting Evan and retarded Ellen immediately pushed their chairs back from the table and fled. But I was crushed, stunned, so I moved in slow motion, carefully rising from my chair. They might as well run over me with their white Tang van now, I thought.

"Uh, no. Not you. What's your name?"

"Augusten?" I said.

"Yes, you, Augusten. You were great. We want you." It was the man with the blue eyes speaking, and now I had my confirmation: he adores me, too. Instantly, my mood reversed, and I began to grind my teeth in joy.

I can now trace my manic adult tendencies to this moment. It was the first time I felt deeply thrilled about something just a fraction of an instant after being completely crushed. I believe those three words "We want you" were enough to cause my brain to rewire itself, and from then on, I would require MORE than other people. At the same time, my tolerance for alcohol was instantly increased, and a new neural pathway was created for the future appreciation of crack cocaine and prescription painkillers.

"You want me?" I said, containing my enthusiasm so completely that I probably appeared disinterested.

"Well, yeah. Don't you want to be in the commercial?"

"Well, yeah. A lot." I tried to imitate an excited boy. I was excited but somehow unable to express the actual emotion of excitement. My electrical system was all off now.

"Good," he said clapping his hands. Then he slid a stack of papers across the table. "Then you need to take these home and have your parents read them over very carefully. We're going to be back Monday."

Copyright 2004 by Augusten Burroughs

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Commercial break 1
Vanderbilt genes 17
Transfixed by transsexuals 25
Model behavior 31
I dated an undertaker 43
And now a word from our sponsor 51
The rat/thing 63
Debby's requirements 73
Roof work 97
Beating Raoul 109
Holy blow job 117
Mark the shrink 125
Telemarketing revenge 137
My last first date 143
The schnauzer 155
Key worst 163
Ass burger 171
Life cycle of the North American opossum 181
Cunnilingusville 189
I kid you not 197
I'm gonna live forever 205
Total turnaround 213
Roid rage 225
Magical thinking 233
Puff derby 245
Meanwhile, back at the ranch 251
Up the escalator 259
Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. If you were to write a letter to Burroughs about Magical Thinking, which essays would you mention? Was there one you found funniest? Most moving? Particularly upsetting? Why? Do you think Burroughs writes about his childhood differently from how he writes about his life as an adult? Explain.

2. "Commercial Break," "Model Behavior," and "I'm Gonna Live Forever" deal with Burroughs's fascination with fame. Why do you think he was preoccupied with being famous? Do you think that all kids dream of being famous or is there something specific to Burroughs's childhood that encouraged these fantasies? What does "I'm Gonna Live Forever" reveal about Burroughs's adult understanding of fame? If you saw him crossing the street toward you, would you approach him? Why?

3. Several of Burroughs's essays involve his transfixion with transsexuals. What is it in transsexuals that appeals to Burroughs? When he writes, "In a way, I am a psychological transsexual, always trying to 'pass' for a normal person but being clocked every time" (p. 260), what do you think he means?

4. "I Dated an Undertaker," "Beating Raoul," and "Mark the Shrink" involve Burroughs's dating experiences. Do you think Burroughs's bizarre childhood prepared him for the dating world? Do you have any dating stories that would make a great essay?

5. "I like flaws and feel more comfortable around people who have them," writes Burroughs (p. 110). "I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions." Why do you think he feels this way? Can you identify? Explain.

6. How would you have handled Debby in "Debby's Requirements"? Do you think Burroughs suspected what he was getting into when he hired her? Why do you think he kept her on for so long?

7. "My Last First Date" is the midpoint of Magical Thinking. What is significant about this essay? In what ways are Burroughs's preoccupations different after this essay? Explain.

8. On page 149, Burroughs states: "Straight guys are like fags used to be. And the fags now are more like straight guys were. Fags today are all about body building and pickup trucks, and straight guys are all about feelings and open-toe sandals." Do you think there is any truth to this statement? Explain. Regardless of your sexual orientation, what things about you are "gay"? What things are "straight"?

9. In "I Kid You Not," Burroughs writes on page 202: "Let the people who want to have kids, have them. And let the rest of us spend the extra money on ourselves." Which type of person are you? Do you think Burroughs might make a better father than he expects? Why? How might a difficult childhood make someone an effective parent?

10. Based on Burroughs's interaction with animals in "The Rat/Thing," "Life Cycle of the North American Opossum" and "Magical Thinking," do you think that he is a friend or foe to the four-legged creatures of this world? On page 186, Burroughs wonders "Did normal Americans kill everything that caused them trouble?" How would you respond that question?

11. In "Puff Derby," why does Burroughs seem to admire P. Diddy? In what ways is P. Diddy like a transsexual? How does the theme of reinvention and transformation run throughout Magical Thinking? How is the theme significant to the book's title?

12. In "Up the Escalator," Burroughs observes on page 267: "The 'down' side always works. You can always slide down with ease. It's going up that sometimes takes extra effort. The symbolism is not lost on me as I drift down to the main floor." What do you think Burroughs means? Does the essay provide a good ending for the collection? Why?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 134 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 134 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 24, 2011

    Five Stars

    I loved Augusten Burroughs' "Magical Thinking". A group of short essays jumping in time from childhood to recent adult activities, it has a similar feel to Rikki Lee Travolta's "My Fractured Life" (although with the huge difference that "My Fractured Life" is fiction and "Magical Thinking" is a memoir). Just like "My Fractured Life", in "Magical Thinking" the writing was crisp yet naturally meandering - like a conversation. Some of the stories are a bit sexually graphic so it is not for the easily offended, but I thoughly enjoyed the honesty. Five stars!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2005


    i love him as a writer. my favorite story in this book was the one with the maid. WEIRD! he is so entertaining. i just can not wait for his next book to come out in '06.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2010

    Seems like it was just written for the check

    I've read Running with Scissors and Dry, these books were interesting and made me want to keep reading them until the very end. As for Magical Thinking, I'm forcing myself to finish it. If you're ready Running with Scissors and Dry, stop there. The short stories aren't as interesting and I could have done without them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2007

    Open Your Eyes..

    Never have I felt more connected to an author in a uncomfortable world as I do with Augusten Burroughs. A fresh prospective and hard hitting one-liners that make you say 'did I just read that correctly'. Deals and tells of raw situations with a sophisicated humor. This is a must read to everyone. This collection of stories captures what life is all about and how you cannot take ANYTHING too seriously. Please give it a try!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2006

    Another Great One By Augusten

    I love this author! He is amazing. This was yet another great book by Augusten. I could not put it down. He has you laughing, crying, and wincing the whole time!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2006

    Great book!!!

    i love all of Augusten Burrough's work and this is my favorite,besides running with scissors, i just could not put this book down, it is very well done, a must read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2005

    Tortured, disturbing and hilarious!

    Sometimes this book is uncomfortable to read other times it's laugh out loud funny. Burrough's writes honestly and from the heart about things that most people find politically incorrect. Good for him. I loved the story about the maid, but my favorite part in the book is when he finds his soul mate. Beautiful!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2014


    I had read a few of "VARMENTS''books and yes I am hooked!! I couldn't decide which would be my next because I didn't know in order to"get it"I didn't know if I needed to read the prior book.So I ended up looking them all up so I could read the reviews and chose them in chronical order.Well I passed up Sellivision due to the reviews.CRAZY CRAZY to put so much time in picking out a fricking book knowing that eventually l will read all of them anyway!! Doing all of this kinda shows me why I'm attracted to the first place-takes one to know one!!I'll be in touch with my real review when I get done.I know you all just can't wait!!!! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Granny B.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2013

    Garbage didn't finish! Threw it away...

    Reviews were misleading. Not what I expected, nor was it at all interesting.....Didn't finish threw it away. Wasted my money. Giving it one start because it is required.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2013

    Totally disappointed! Did not like it at all. Not interesting s

    Totally disappointed! Did not like it at all. Not interesting subject matter and he didn't make any sense to write about such nonsense. Didn't finish it and I won't be buying any others by him. You have to be kidding to think people would be interested. I will give it one star for spelling and penmanship!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2013


    Thats not a good book!!!!!!!!!!! BAD WORDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2012


    its so good but you must read his first two memoirs first but its so good i can barely handle the greatness radiating off of this book. augusten Burroughs is AMAZING<3

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2011

    Not For the Prude and Boring Folks!!

    i found myself laughing and gasping through the majority of this book i have a very vulgar and dry sense of humor so its refreshing to read from an author who does as well Its quite possible this book might offend you but i say grow a pair and get over it and enjoy the f**ked up situations in everyday life with a hardy laugh I LOVE YOU AUGUSTEN BURROUGHS

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended

    Augusten Burroughs has a very conversational way of writing so that even the most twisted thoughts don't come across in a frightening way. He has a great sense of humor about himself, I love that. His most famous book is "Running with Scissors" but this is my favorite of his works.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 6, 2010

    Indeed Magical

    There's something magical about someone baring intimate details of their life in a published document for the world to see. Taking things that are "tabu" and "secret" and recanting them in detail. Mr.Burroughs writing voice and style are very captivating and keep you flipping through the pages. He tells of things that are relatable, like falling in love, and other things the general public has never been through, like going through a rehab center for recovering gay alcoholics and drug addicts. He brings a humor to dark subjects that leaves you laughing and describes things in such detail and comparison that its easy to envision

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 4, 2010

    So funny and unique!

    I could not put this book down. I have read "Running with Scissors" and "The Wolf at the Table" but this one is my favorite so far. I will read everything by this author now. I find the character and his strange insights into himself so relatable. I couldn't keep myself form continually writing excerpts of this book outloud to my partner.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 12, 2010


    I thought that is book was overall a good book. Many of the stories i read were a little mind boggling and hard to read. He had a lot of interesting stories and points that went a long with what he was talking about. If people like true stories about a gay man and what he has gone through then i reccomend this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 22, 2009

    Magical Thinking Review

    Augusten Burroughs never fails to write entertaining true stories from his own insane experiences. It's pretty amazing how many strange things in his life he has to write about.
    The stories are funny, awkward, and uncensored. While Dry was drawn more from reality, Magical Thinking has the same absurd humor as Burrough's first memoir, Running with Scissors. This collection of personal narratives are almost as satisfying as Running with Scissors- in both books, Burroughs makes his real-life experiences seem surreal, hints the name "Magical Thinking". Though, nothing can really compare to the first time one reads of his outrageous life.
    The only criticisms I have of this book is that at times it dragged a little bit, some of the stories seemed out of place. I personally prefer the stories of his childhood; they tend to be the funniest, most outrageous ones. And there are some scattered throughout this book, and to me those are the hilarious treasures of his writings. That's not to say that every story isn't entertaining, because they definitely all are.
    For anyone who hasn't read any Augusten Burroughs, Magical Thinking is not the best introduction to his work. Like I said Running with Scissors just locks you in with its horrifying humor.
    But this is Burrough's second best book. I recommend it for anyone who has read Running with Scissors and is looking for more.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 4, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Unimaginably Funny and Irreverent

    I rarely, if ever, loan out my books . . . too often they get lost among other people's possessions. But I took a chance with Magical Thinking because I really wanted a friend to experience the outrageous humor of Augusten Burroughs. It took a year to get back my well-worn, highlighted, underlined, and starred copy, but I did and I'm grateful.

    I'd say that Magical Thinking, as well as all of Burroughs books, aren't for the faint of heart or prudes. Not everyone will find themselves laughing hysterically as they read about a boy giving a priest a blow job. Not every parent and her children will chuckle as Augusten one-ups his Nazi Housekeeper. But whatever tale Burroughs is sharing, there are no apologies, no details (it seems) spared. And we are lucky readers for that.

    If you can only read one of Burroughs books, skip Running with Scissors and buy this one.
    Marie Etienne, author of Confessions of a Bi-Polar Mardi Gras Queen

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 30, 2009

    Enjoyed it a lot

    Heartwarming and amusing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 134 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)