Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

the_subtle_art_of_not_giving_a_fuckI occasionally read Mark Manson’s blog. He’s a rather smart guy with good, counter-intuitive and certainly not mainstream advice about how to live. Among others, he preaches certain pragmatism in dating which of course makes me his fan. This is why when I saw his book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” in a bookstore, I decided to give it a go.

Just like Buddha and other Buddhist folk, Mark tells us that suffering is a natural part of life. The problem with the modern society is that it doesn’t want to accept it as a fact. We try to find various ways of relieving the pain of life or entirely get rid of it, which just doesn’t make sense. The mainstream media promotes a happy clappy reality, which just isn’t, well, realistic. We’ll all suffer in this or other way and we should embrace it, says Manson. In his mind it means choosing the things we give a f*ck about. You know how people get bent out of shape every time something doesn’t go exactly like they expected it to? This is giving a f*ck about something they shouldn’t. Some things are beyond our control and there’s no point in excessive anger. There are other things, however, which are important and which are worth fighting for. In other words, we will suffer but we can choose what’s worth suffering for.

Of course, Mark tells the reader much more in his book and explains his ideas in more detail but the above summary should give you an idea about the tone. I like Manson’s no bullshit approach to life. Oh, boo hoo, it’s difficult to have the courage to change your job? Well, life is difficult. Is it important enough for you to try? Manson also analyses why humans act against their best interest and uses good examples to explain why things are the way we are. The book is a good read and certainly an eye opener particularly for those people who never encountered Buddhist teachings. However, it’s not free of flaws.

First of all, Mark gives you nothing in return for changing your life views. He pours a bucket of cold water on your head and then he leaves you out there, in the cold in, with no clothes on. Buddhism after doing the same gives you meditation as a way to improve your life. Therapy gives you tools to deal with new information such as practical exercises aimed at changing your habits. Hell, even other self-help books give you practical advice on what to do. Manson doesn’t and he claims he doesn’t have to, which is surprising for someone who claims to well know the human nature. Another weakness of the book is that even I, as an irregular reader of his blog, have recognized big chunks of the text as being copy pasted from his online work. This isn’t cool particularly for his faithful readers. There are different ways to say the same things and this device is just lazy. Last but not least, he digresses quite a bit and the book could have been structured in a better way.

Having said that, I still think that Manson is brilliant. He’s the only widely read person I know, who stands up to the harmful beliefs that the main culture is ingraining in us. He’s a free thinker and I have a lot of respect for him. I recommend this book to everyone, particularly to those who are comfortable with their illusions about how life should be nice and fluffy.

Do you read Manson’s blog, Dear Reader? What blog do you read (apart from this one, of course)? Can you recommend any books that opened your eyes? I’m looking forward to reading your comments.

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