I’m not sure how many people I have actually recommended this book to – I know that half of them don’t necessarily take it seriously, or they’ll think it’s a good idea to read it but then forget about it all over again, but I just can’t stop talking about it. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is the first book I’ve read in what I guess would be considered the ‘self help’ genre – but it was nothing like what I expected ‘self help’ books and guides to be like, and I think that’s why it struck such a chord with me.
The Subtle Art, written by blogger Mark Manson, calls itself a ‘counter-intuitive approach to living a good life’, and this is exactly what it is (with the emphasis being on the counter-intuitive part). I’m not afraid, this time, to share ‘spoilers’ from the book because I’m hoping these will give an insight and overview to the book that you don’t get from the blurb – and if you kinda know what it’s about, you’ll know whether it’s worth a read for yourself or not. My wish is the former; I think everyone should read it.
The book’s overlying message (it seems to me) is that we, as people, really need to get our priorities straight. Not in terms of what society’s expectations for us are – because everyone knows there are an insurmountable number of those – but that we should try harder to change our attitudes and expectations towards ourselves, and focus on achieving attainable, personal goals. It’s kinda the same thing you hear in a lot of movies, no matter what the genre; the things that are important are close family, friends, human relationships and small comforts (which Manson sees as ‘internal’ goals, good ones) and not wealth, fame, glory or the everlasting freedom to travel the globe (‘external’ goals, bad ones).
As a recent graduate, it was a great thing to read. I was actually introduced to it by my Dad, who gave me his battered copy, but once I started reading it I was instantly unable to put it down. It just made so much sense, it was like a breath of fresh air after the existential crises I was having every other Tuesday. So many things that I had been feeling and thinking, but wasn’t sure why I was carrying those thoughts around, I was suddenly given explanations for.
Using various examples from people in real life, Manson’s own life, and even celebrities, Manson shows the various ways that people choose their emotions and choose their goals, even if these are what is making them unhappy, or making them feel lost – we are responsible for our own downfalls? Controversial, I know! His reaction, however, is more complicated than what you would expect for the book’s title – it’s not really about “not giving a f*ck”, but choosing what you give a f*ck about. It’s about learning how to ask yourself the really difficult questions in order to get what you want.
The Subtle Art hits home hard, but Manson’s writing is easy to follow and extremely down to earth. A lot of the time it really feels like he’s talking to you; this is also where the book’s biggest problem lies. It doesn’t always necessarily flow. The chapters are split up in such a way as to give some semblance of structure but it rambles, probably because he is originally a blogger and he is just talking to us, his readers, about what’s in his head. It also doesn’t really give ‘try it yourself’ exercises to help you learn to start asking hard questions, or give you things to do to start to change, it just explains why you should change and then expects us to know what to do. But I guess that’s part of the challenge – figuring out for yourself what you really want, not waiting on someone else to give you the answer.
Overall, The Subtle Art is a book beyond anything I’ve ever read. It might mean that I try reading other ‘self help’ books to give them a comparison, but I know I’m going to be reading Manson’s book a second time to really understand how to change my perspective on life. A refreshingly down to earth, no nonsense read, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck shows you, ultimately, that f*cks are the most important things to give, to the things in life that warrant them most. Verdict: 9/10.