When I bought the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, I thought this would be a comedy book, funny as hell and I could read it as relaxation during my Christmas-New Year leisure time. I should have read more Amazon customer reviews before purchasing. This is another self-help book, albeit being a bit funnier than the others I’ve read in the past. In the meanwhile, some parts of the book also provoke deeper thought than being funny all the way through.
The overall content in this book can be summarized up in short words: Don’t try to take the pursuit of as mush as positive experience in life as your goal, as happiness itself is a problem. Accept negative experiences and realize that life is about to replace one set of problems with another. No one is special, and suffering is constant. The point is having the right values and dedicate to those problems that are worth you giving a f*ck. The five values the author believes in are:
- be responsible for things in your life no matter they are your choice or not;
- be willing to be wrong or uncertain and open to constant doubt in life;
- be able to face mistakes and failures and to learn from them;
- be able to say and hear no; and
- dare to think of one’s own death.
The book is a quick read and each chapter stays to the point. I spent a couple nights’ time before sleep to have finished the book. Most chapters of the book contain enough elaboration of these ideas, equipped with many stories drawn from various fields which are overall interesting to read.
The book tells why and what, but not how. True that it’s important not to give a f*ck about everything, but only to give a f*ck about things that really matter in life, but not much of this book says how. True that life’s journey is to replace one set of problems with another set of potentially better ones, but you simply cannot drop everything and start a new life immediately. The gap between having such a mindset and practicing it out isn’t addressed enough in this book, if any.
A lot of online reviews in this book call out the author’s pervasive self-bragging across the book. I didn’t appreciate this either. Maybe, as another online comment mentioned, this book is written for millennials, so I am not the target audience? A specific chapter that suffers from this disaster is Chapter 8, where the author talks about being willing to say and hear no. I agree with the value, but nearly all of this chapter’s anecdotes are from the author’s personal relationship, while in fact, this might be the most topic that the author can draw stories that are outside his personal life.
Lastly, the sharp turn from the over idea on having the right values to the list of the five counterintuitive values that the author believes in seems like the book is assembling extended blog posts (which probably is indeed what the author’s doing). I almost stopped reading the book at the end of Chapter 4 because the rest of the book was already summarized there. The sharp change of tone in Chapter 9 is also such an example.
People subconsciously rate a self-help book based on whether the ideas delivered echo their own values. This is why the reviews for this book on Amazon and Goodreads are so polarized. By this standard, I should have given this book a 5-star review. However, this book could be better. Removing enough self-bragging and adding more on the how would make this book a much better read and leave the readers more value.