You Better Not Cry: True Stories for Christmas, By Augusten Burroughs

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The Independent Culture

The first half of this memoir concerns a very young Augusten Burroughs, stuck at home with his pill-dependent mother and alcoholic lecturer father, convinced that Santa and Jesus are one and the same (they both appear "in continuous rotation on television at the same time each year"), much to the horror of his Southern, God-fearing grandparents.

His account of kissing the life-sized wax Santa they bring him, before devouring his lips and cheeks and beard, is hilarious, as is his attempt to bake a gingerbread house for his long-suffering, blissed-out mother. Things take a darker turn when, suddenly, Burroughs is grown up, former lovers are dying of Aids, he has become an alcoholic just like his father, and he's waking up naked in a hotel room next to a dilapidated and ancient French Santa Claus.

If Christmas is about humanity, then Burroughs understands it perfectly. Relentlessly honest about himself (he swipes his lover from the man's dying companion without any remorse), he is equally fearless about skewering society's many hypocrisies. And Christmas is the perfect time to be doing it.