The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson

The Subtle Art is a book that has shot to the top of the various best-seller lists, which is why I got it. It IS a self-help book, but with a difference. [I am not talking about the use of profanity – if bad language offends you, don’t buy the book!]. It doesn’t support the idea that everyone is a winner, that everyone is special, and aims to get you over any idea of entitlement.

The basic premise is that we need to fight for the stuff we believe in, and it’s up to us to choose what to believe in and care about, because there’s only a certain amount of care to go around. It DOES NOT mean you should be indifferent to things, but just be careful what you care about. To quote: “What I’m talking about here is essentially learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively—how to pick and choose what matters to you and what does not matter to you based on finely honed personal values.”

So far, so good. It seems a welcome reality check for the feel-good, perpetually happy generation [has anyone ever seen a FB post showing people miserable?? I haven’t!].

There are obviously a lot of people out there who get a lot from this book – 2m copies sold, and counting – and its publication coincides with the crest of the tidal wave that is the self-help/coaching industry in the USA. However, he writes against this rising tide, for example castigating “unique snowflakes”. Some of the topics he tackles include:

Values & Metrics: Not everyone in the world will think you’re great. The question is, is that important to you?

Choosing your Struggle: Will you stay at home to mind a sick child, yet be stressed about not being at work?

Choice: We always have a choice. Actions never lie – behaviour betrays your values.

Other topics cover taking responsibility for your own life, and be comfortable with the eventual fact of your own death, amongst others.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck opens with the true but strange life of Charles Bukowski, who went from drunkard to best-selling author, yet had “Don’t Try” written on his gravestone. Manson takes this story, and uses it as a mirror for our current world, which reminds us of what we lack, to have the perfect life. To paraphrase, chasing the highs won’t make you really happy.

And so it goes on.

My View:

It’s an ok read. I’m ignoring the use of the foul language, because that’s really not the point of the book, just a crude and effective way of getting attention for his message.

What is his message?

Honestly, I found nothing in here that I have not come across before. From the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, through Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends”, or Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements“, [all fantastic books – highly recommended!!] and even the Alcoholics Prayer (though that one not from personal experience), the thoughts and points strike me as being a rehash/mishmash of the ‘tough love’ approach.

There were a ton of examples given throughout, which give a serious tone to the book (well, maybe – there’s a curious one about Jennifer Aniston). I found it hard to check his sources for the various studies etc. that he mentions, maybe because he didn’t give any? There are also of course the personal anecdotes, which are difficult/impossible to refute. However, Manson states “I told you not to take me seriously, remember?”, and I have to take him at his word after (just) finishing this book.

For me, the book is written for people who want hope in bite-sized portions. As far as I know, (and he certainly doesn’t claim anything in his book), he has no formal qualifications in this “Life Coach” area {which is funny, because he slags them off a lot, while being part of the cozy gang), so writes from the hip/life experience.

The writing is  basic, but honestly his assertions should be taken with a good grain of salt. For example:

Entitlement: A big Manson chip. Sometimes, Mark, you can be entitled (e.g. to be treated the same as everyone else).

Shame: “Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame” – eh, what? Taking Zen Buddhism to a level it was never meant to get to, methinks.

Happiness: “To be happy, we need something to solve”. Sweeping statements like this, completely unsupported by any serious research, is frankly annoying.

A neat summation of this book would be “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, which statement has been covered better elsewhere.

It’s hard to argue against 2 million people who have bought this, but then again, it depends on what you value! Buy it here – The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck.

3 thoughts on “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson

  1. Interesting, the self help genre certainly has become saturated in recent years with so many topics covered that there really is very little that is actually ‘new’ and not just an idea being repackaged or repeated.
    I’m not keen on books that are littered with swear words, they lose their impact after a while and only go to show me that an author can swear, but does little to impress me that they can also write to entertain.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This book was on top 3 best selling when I visited in Turkey and that’s how I saw it..I am always sceptical about self-help books. your review kind of wrapped up my decision not to read it 🙂


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