Advice Columns By Famous Authors We’d Love to Read


This week, we’re diving into Augusten Burroughs’ newest book, a stellar series of essays meant to be a cheeky version of a self-help book, blessed with the unwieldy but hilarious title This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike . While we’re thankful for Burroughs’ “instruction manual for living,” it got us thinking about the other authors we wish would give us some advice — whether in self-help book or advice column form — and what they might write about. Click through to see our dream literary advice-givers, and let us know whose column you’d flip to first in the comments.

Gertrude Stein

“If you can’t say anything nice about anyone else, come sit next to me,” Stein famously quipped, so we have to imagine that any advice column from her hand would be devilishly witty and deliciously judgmental. But she’s not all sour grapes and arched eyebrows — she also wrote, “One must dare to be happy,” and any woman who knows that is one we want to hear more life advice from as well.

Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut was never one to hold back on giving advice, including the writerly gem, “Don’t use semicolons. They stand for absolutely nothing. They are transvestite hermaphrodites. They are just a way of showing off. To show that you have been to college.” Please, Kurt Vonnegut. Teach us how to live. We will listen.

Mark Twain

Any suggestions Twain could offer us as to how to end up sitting on our front porches in all-white suits smoking pipes, cracking jokes, and writing classics would be much appreciated.

Jack Kerouac

Though we’re not sure we’d actually like to take practical life advice from the All-American hobo, we do adore his “Rules for Spontaneous Prose,” which basically amount to “make brave art” and “live life to the crazy-fullest.” What other advice do you really need?

Patti Smith

We think everyone could benefit from the punk goddess/art heroine/ alternative poetess/skilled memoirist’s hard-earned wisdom on almost any subject, but we dream of a weekly column on how to make it in a big city on a shoestring budget — in 2012, that is. So, yes, she’d have to do a little research, but we’re pretty sure it was 80% attitude anyway.

Cormac McCarthy

If his Yelp reviews are anything to go by, we think the lusciously dismal king of the contemporary Western might have a few (extremely long and gory) sentences to spare for the problems of the plebs. Especially if those problems include leather or the sun in any shape or form — which we have to admit, many modern problems do.

Ayn Rand

If it would be anything like this, that is.

Donna Tartt

A notorious recluse at near-Salingeresque levels, we’ve been waiting a full decade for Tartt’s third novel (it was supposed to come out this year, but we haven’t heard a peep), so we’re pretty hungry for anything penned by her illustrious hand at this point. That said, the few essays she’s blessed us with have only cemented the idea that she’s a kindred spirit of ours, and with all the strangeness and truth in her fiction, we’d love to hear more of her thoughts on the strangeness and truth of life.

Vladimir Nabokov

We would read anything by Nabokov, even if it was just a weekly column on how best to find, catch, and identify butterflies. No, wait, especially if it was that.


Now, here’s a lady who was completely unabashed, strong, sexy and always controversial — just how we like our advisors to be. Not only a novelist but also a performer at the Moulin Rouge, the sometime lover of Josephine Baker, and the first woman to be admitted to the Académie Goncourt (she later became its president), Colette could probably teach us quite a bit about how to live with fervor.