Tag: book

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

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

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.

Children of Time: Review

Children of Time: Review

This is, by far, the most complicated world builder I have ever read. Potentially this is because I have only recently begun reading serious science fiction, and even Children of Time, though meticulously detailed, was not heavy on scientific jargon. It focused more on the two halves of the story, even though it spanned what seemed like millennia – seriously, that’s not an over exaggeration. It literally was a story that was told over thousands of years.

Children of Time begins with a terraforming project that ends up creating a world where arachnids (more specifically, jumping spiders) have become conscious and intelligent. Meanwhile, the ‘last hope of Earth’ is leaving our barren planet in search of a new home . Unfortunately, that new home is crawling with giant insects. It should be enough to make your skin crawl, thinking about spiders the size of your leg, but I didn’t find this at all. Half the time, I was rooting for the spiders, finding the world and language they created fascinating.

What transpires, when these two worlds come together, is a very interesting – if a bit long – tale about human nature and how far we are willing to go to survive. Both the humans on the ‘last hope’, a giant space ship, and the spiders, have their own chapters. We are shown how the humans are getting on with their confined spaces, power struggles, and need to find somewhere to call home. We also, on the other hand, see the spiders building their world; their lives, their hierarchies, cities, and finding God and science (the two are not mutually exclusive). I was scared for the spiders, after a while – if the humans tried to come to their terraformed world, their life style could be destroyed. But I also couldn’t bear to think of the human race wiped out entirely. Call it my own survival instinct kicking in, which was a weird thing to feel whilst reading a book.

Children of Time is written by Adrian Tchaikovsky, and is thoroughly, wonderfully descriptive. It is utterly captivating, and he has created worlds that I would have never even thought about, let alone be desperate to know their inner workings. Tchaikovsky has created an incredibly detailed world where the spiders live, and I wouldn’t mind reading a handful of novellas about different parts of the world and how the spiders live their day to day lives.

The only thing that may put readers off is that this is a very long book; I think, in between working full time and actually living, it took me about two weeks to finish it. Sometimes you could feel how long it was, because the action took place over thousands of years as the spiders’ civilisations evolved, but I was never bored. There was always something more to know, or a question I hadn’t thought to ask answered by the author.

Children of Time s touching, human and alien all at once, and imaginative in ways I had never thought about before. This is a great book to read if you’re trying to get into science fiction but are worried about how complicated it can get, as it definitely eases you in and explains everything it needs to. Also, helpful in getting over a fear of spiders? Maybe. Verdict: 9/10.

Nod: A Review

Nod: A Review

Though originally published in 2012, I didn’t stumble upon Nod, by Adrian Barnes, until early 2016. Saying that, I’m truly glad I decided to pick it up after seeing it hiding amongst the science-fiction in my local Waterstones.  As I turn to the back of the book and read the blurb, the first sentence is the premise in a nutshell: “Dawn breaks over Vancouver and no one in the world has slept the night before, or almost no one.”

The story follows our narrator, Paul, who is one of the few people in the world – 1 in 10,000 – who has been able to sleep. Not only this, but when Paul now sleeps, he has a mysterious ‘golden dream’. We follow him through the book as modern day descends into sleep-deprived madness; though our interesting, introverted protagonist is still capable of sleep, he is forced to watch as his girlfriend Tanya crumbles, and the city he lives in turns into a wasteland.

It seems to start slowly, but the hordes of ‘Awakened’ are soon digressing to their primitive, animal selves; all bets are off, shackles of humanity stripped away, and order is a thing of the past. The most harrowing thing I felt about Nod? Barnes paints such a vivid, stark image of the apocalypse that I could honestly see this one coming true.

This, in part, is what makes Barnes’ idea so fantastic – and also frightening, in equal measure.  Unlike many other dystopian future/apocalyptic ideas I have come across before, this feels very real. It asks no questions of itself, and doesn’t try to find an answer or a ‘cure’. The plot is both complex and simple in its motive; it’s not about why this has happened, but how it affects everything, day by day, and how humanity tries – and ultimately fails – to traverse their new landscape and deal with their terrifying new surroundings.

Adrian Barnes has a very clever idea here, and it is made even more poignant (I think) by his own personal circumstances. Though my copy of Nod came with his essay, I didn’t read it until after I had finished the book (watch for the ending. Bittersweet). It’s called ‘My Cancer is as Strange as my Fiction‘, and in it, Barnes details his own struggles with cancer, and how Nod and the world Paul inhabits sometimes mirrors the difficulties Barnes himself is facing.

Even if you don’t get the chance to read Nod, the article is a good one, and it’s easy to see why Adrian Barnes is such a good writer. Even when speaking directly to his reader, his writing is intelligent, melodic, and self aware. If you’re looking for a novel (pun intended) read that combines clever, subtle science-fiction with real, human emotion and our basic instinct to stay alive, then Nod is the book for you.

It’s a fairly easy read – though some of it’s content is mature – and it captures the imagination with vibrant description, so if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to put it down. Verdict: 7.5/10.