Book Review of Mark Manson’s 'The Subtle Art of Not Giving a ‘F*ck’
Mark Manson - What's the fuss about?
When I start any book review, such as this one on ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck I am usually very mindful that the author has spent days, weeks, months, or even years working on their text. Criticism hurts and it is good to be kind when possible. Admittedly this can lead to fairly bland reviews when a book is just mediocre! Even though the likelihood of the writer ever reading my comments about their work are pretty slim, I try to honestly evaluate a book whilst erring on the positive. (A bit like assessing a kid’s work!) I definitely avoid stating anything personally negative about the writer themselves.
With my review of ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’by Mark Manson, I couldn’t do this. It was impossible to separate the author from the writing. Although I don’t think Mark Manson, would ‘give a f*ck’ it still feels harsh to share anything negative about the text.
I read ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck on a long ‘long haul flight from Bangkok to UK. I didn’t’ have a lot to do or read so pretty much completed the book in one sitting. Despite this my first impressions were not good!
What with its click bait title, its references to Jennifer Aniston as part of its overall ‘laddish’ tone, Manson almost alienated me before I had hardly started reading. I disliked and disbelieved in the ‘we’re all mates together’ tone of the first few chapters immensely; the authorial voice sounded arrogant and self-absorbed. I was utterly unconvinced by what I think was an attempt to be self-deprecating and thought the author came over as being somewhere between a complete sleazebag and a stereotypical 'rich kid'. His own sense of entitlement made me feel he was the least equipped person on the planet to write about, as he does, the sense of entitlement others feel.
Jump to two hours into the flight and I was fully immersed in the writing and prepared to engage in some intellectual thought about Mark Manson’s commentary. By the end of the text I was completely won over. I was prepared to dig deep and reflect on the validity of his arguments. Manson’s use of analogy and example were pretty convincing and served as a good tool against which to pin personal reflection. I am sure as Mark Manson progressed through the book he became kinder and wiser.
Manson makes a point of distancing himself from other writers in the self-help’ genre by casting aside the ‘pursuit of happiness’ as an end goal. He stresses the difference between short and long term fulfilment and personal choice is a recurring theme. Manson demonstrates that whilst we can’t always, or even often, control what life throws at us we can control how we respond to it.
Although, I’m not great at evaluating non-fiction text and can lose my way a bit, I think what Mark Manson is getting at is that we shouldn’t strive to be extraordinary. By accepting our ordinariness we can then learn what to ‘give a f*ck about’. (Call me old fashioned but I tended to replace ‘value’ and ‘care’ for the phrase ‘give a f*ck’.) As in other ‘self-help’ or other popularized ‘pseudo-psychology’ studies the message isn’t rocket science, but rather is a reminder to reflect upon what is driving our lives. In brief Manson is telling us to accept that we are not perfect but to get our priorities right.
The structure of the book isn’t as tight is it might be. For example the book takes an odd twist towards the end when Manson re-centres his arguments on the type of legacy we wish to leave behind. This underpins his whole argument but it needs pursuing in more depth as it feels like it is almost thrown in as an after thought.
Overall, despite some repetition and contradiction the book was definitely worth reading. As I’ve said whilst I appreciate what Manson is trying to do I don’t personally like his style of appealing to the reader by throwing in coarse jokes. It feels like he is trying to hard to not sound preachy so is overcompensating with his self presentment as an ‘edgy, boy come good’ type. Judging by his sales though my view is not a commonly held one. Best of luck to him. His Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and his sequel text Everything is F*cked - a Book about Hope, will certainly be bringing in the pennies, but I don’t suppose he’ll care!
Book Club Questions for the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F
Discussion Questions on the Subtle Art of not giving a F
Discussion Questions if you haven’t read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F
If you were to write a ‘self help’ book what would your key message be?
Cannery Row - Book Review and Book Club Discussion Questions
I am coming towards the end of my goodreads 'reading challenge'. I pledged 50 books but have only read 42. Consequently I needed a slim book to read-how shallow I am! A dear friend and I had recently been chatting about John Steinbeck and he recommended Cannery Row to me. I adore Of Mice and Men (especially the very opening description) and have actually taught it more times than I've had hot dinners, so it made perfect sense to read this book. I'm so glad I did.
john Steinbeck's Cannery Row - Opinion Piece
Cannery Row is a beautiful book guaranteed to encourage introspection and reflection on life. Set in the real Monterey Ocean View Avenue, fictionalized as Cannery Row, it is a study of identity. We learn about the individual characters and all their idiosyncrasies. From the generous hearted prostitutes, to the semi-lawless homeless, to the shrewd but semi-down-and-out businessman, we see into the soul of each character, as they come together to make the community of Cannery in the years of the great depression.
The structure of Cannery Row is linear and tells loosely inter-linked and intertwining stories that centre largely around the ecologist 'Doc'. Fact and fiction overlap, (with only a quick look on Google, we learn that Doc is based on Steinbeck's long standing friend Rickett.) There are separate episodes that occur during chapters that are featured between those comprising the main linear progression of the story. These ‘in-between chapters’ jar against the smoothness and the lull of the main text. The most poignant of the sub-stories, I think, is the story of two small boys where one knows the other's father committed suicide with rat-poison and taunts him for this. The portrayal of the cruelty that people are capable of, even as children, and the need for one upmanship, in this chapter, is shocking.
Cannery Row is the type of book that needs savouring; each bite is worth lingering over. The final chapter of the successful party extensively quotes from the beautiful poem Black Marigolds, translated from the Sanskrit by E Powys Mathers. The reader finishes the text with a sensation rather like being served the finest delicacies in the poshest restaurant, knowing that it would be a sin to not linger over every mouthful. They are not likely to be exposed to such delicious delicacies again.
The Girl Who Smiled Beads - Book Review and Book Club Questions
Autobiography, by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Wile, about Clemantine's experience of the Rwandan Massacre.
This is a powerful and well-written autobiography/biography sharing the story of Clemantine Wamariya. She and her sister Claire are adrift as refugees, fleeing the terror imposed during the Rwandan War. I hadn’t heard of Clemantine prior to reading the book, but it seems she became something of a ‘genocide survivor celebrity’ after sharing her story on Oprah.
When considering memoirs and biographies there tends to be an assumption that the process of writing the book will help the author come to peace with what has happened in it. – a cathartic process. What struck me most about this text is that this doesn’t seem to be the case. Even as the book comes to its conclusion and Clementine tries to make things as ‘right’ as they ever can be for her mother, she continues to seem completely troubled. There is a sense that she has gone through the worst, come out the other side, but because of that almost incomprehensible worst there can never be a best. So, whilst Clemantine can analyse and evaluate her situation and does critically review everything she has been through, she can’t quite fully come to terms with it or move forward.
The book does make for an unnerving read. There is nothing comfortable about Clemantine’s account as she repeatedly reflects on the brutality of it. There is no redemption, no forgiving and forgetting. One of the things Clemantine is troubled and confused by is how many Rwandan’s have, to some extent at least, moved forward with life (of course they have to). She finds this difficult to comprehend and the reader is exposed to the complexity of responding emotionally with any kind of rationality to such horror.
Clemantine explores the life she has created in America and illustrates how she is frequently misjudged, mistreated and misunderstood. To be truthful, whilst reading I am full of fear that I am the person doing the misunderstanding, which makes me feel a little defensive about a perhaps imagined reproach. Ridiculous eh! I feel that Clemantine resents and fears that she will always have the outsider position imposed on her yet cannot allow herself to take any other societal or personal position in the relationships she makes.
Lasting Impression of the Girl Who Smiled Beads
Ultimately, the book made me feel humbled, frightened, reflective and grateful. I love the parable of the girl who smiled beads, I love the honesty of the writing and I love being privileged to have had this ‘life story’ shared with me.
Girl, Woman, Other Book Review
I read Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other after she had already jointly won the Booker Prize with Margaret Atwood for The Testaments. I’d been intrigued to know what text would merit being considered equal to The Testaments as I had expected Atwood to be the lone winner (don’t think there is any doubting that it would have been wrong to not acknowledge the exquisite accomplishment of Margaret Atwood’s fabulous sequel to the Handmaid’s Tale.) As Evaristo says herself in this interview, who better to share the Booker with than Atwood.
Anyway, Evaristo did not disappoint. Far from it. Why have I never read any of her other books? Rather, I was blown away by the prose. It isn’t a poetry in verse, not quite, but it is beautiful to listen to. Reading the text made me intrigued to know more about the author as I was staggered by the incredible insight she has into humanity. It sounds a bit pretentious, but her writing really is a tour de force (a phrase she mocks at one point in the book) and like no other I have discovered in recent years. Exploring the lives of four groups of women she addresses just about every ‘woman’s issue’ (I use the phrase deliberately ‘tongue in cheek’) I can think of. From motherhood to sexuality, to ambition to regret – it is all there. I don’t know if I should admit this, as it perhaps shows my incredible naiveity that I didn’t actually think about the centrality of race until I read Evaristo’s own comments on this.
The links within the groups of women are significant and the links between those groups exist in the same way that unlikely connections and correlations occur in life, simultaneously realistic and incredulous.
Sleep Deprived Empty Nesters
I’m lying here in bed at 3.35 a.m. listening to the rain outside wondering whether Annie got home ok from her night out yesterday. I’m not too worried as I know she was travelling with her friend Alfie, but I question whether it is raining over in Spain too and if not whether it is cold. I hope that she has remembered to wear a proper coat. I know she won’t have put gloves on or even taken any to Salamanca with her. I check my phone to see if she has messaged but I am not expecting anything. It is her third year at university and I have slowly weaned myself off from asking her check in every ten minutes. I often manage up to an hour now! (Only half joking!)
Mick is in Bangkok and will probably be just getting up, I bet the dog is barking for attention. Betsy is in York and has messaged earlier to say that she is safely home from her evening out. There is no one to disturb if I switch on my very loud coffee machine so I get up and make myself a drink. It’s ok, but I know that Mick would scorn the inferior ‘bargain basement’ coffee beans. Only two weeks until half term when I see him. This makes me smile. I breathe out. For the first time this week my anxiety levels are within acceptable levels. Relax
I pick up Lucy Worsley’s Jane Austen At Home which I’m about half way through. I adore Jane Austen, (particularly Pride and Prejudice) and admire Lucy Worsley but I’m soon sleepy. I lay the book aside. I have planned to blog in the morning about ‘Empty Nesters’ and I drift off wondering what type of empty nesters Mr and Mrs Bennet were. ....