This was going to be a book review but I think it is going to turn into an author review. I downloaded my library’s reader app, called Libby, by Overdrive. (Named after my daughter) A title quickly caught my eye but it was an audio book. I had never listened to one before. The book is “The Subtle Art of Not giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life” by Mark Manson. I was a little late to the party on this one since it was already a New York Times bestseller and he is quite famous. The book was not available right away so I listened to the 5 minute sample. It was a summary of Charles Bukowski’s life and the takeaway was “Don’t give a fuck” or in two words, “Don’t try”. Bukowski was one of my favorite writers so I decided to put the book on hold.
It became available the next day and I gave it a listen. It was only 5 hours and I split it in 2.
The book wasn’t at all what I expected by reading the title. It turned into half autobiography and half self help. I’m not a big fan of self help books. I liked the biography part because I had a lot in common with Mark. We both started drugs and drinking at a young age, we both wanted to become famous by playing guitar in a band and we both spent a lot of our lives traveling, partying and chasing women. Another connection we had was our first true loves cheated on us and he describes it as a physical pain as well as a psychological one.
The book is not actually about not giving a fuck about anything. It is about giving a fuck about the right things. I could agree on a lot but I got irritated because he was the one who decided what the right things were and which were “shitty values.” He came across as arrogant and seemed to be saying, “I’ve figured out the right way to live life and if you haven’t by now, you are wrong.”
A recurring theme in the book was him bragging about how he’s traveled to so many countries and partied with so many people and slept with whatever women he wanted that it became boring and then he would say he had “shitty values” while he lived that life. Along with that he would say, my great life wasn’t really so great but by the way, did I mention how great my life was? I mean he lived most of his life doing exactly what he wanted. When I lived that way, I felt great.
Another theme was a great value to attain was to get married and have a family and live happily ever after. That is where he lost me. I was in love, I got married, my child was planned, and I thought I was going to live that way for the rest of my life and it only lasted a few short years before divorce. Every time he brought it up I would think, how does he know this is the one love in his life that would last? Didn’t he already have that feeling with his first love? Didn’t she break his heart by cheating on him?
Another point that stuck to me was he went into detail bragging about all the women he’s slept with but he just casually mentions how he cheated on his fiance (current wife) with a mentally ill woman who had been stalking him. I didn’t like how he made fun of her mental illness and the unspoken part was he took advantage of her and slept with her just because he could.
One chapter was about taking responsibility for your own life which I advocate, but he just wrote off cheating on his fiance as “just what I do.” Wasn’t this the woman he already planned on marrying and raising kids with? Wasn’t this the woman he knew he was going to spend the rest of his life with? That was the main theme of his book. One of the non-shitty values was getting married and having kids. He seemed awfully cavalier about cheating on her while also saying having his first love cheat on him was the worst experience of his life.
Overall the book is well written and makes intelligent points. Although the for the last hour I was just hoping for the book to end after he got into the wrap up and turned inspirational. It was a good read for me because I like books where I can agree with the author on some points and also get peeved. I would recommend the book if you like to listen. That is the only way I could make it through. If it were a paper book I would have put it down about halfway through because he made all his points and kept repeating them. But it did make me think and that is what I like most.
I don’t know how I feel about audio books. I kept getting distracted and missing bits but I was too lazy to rewind and listen again. Whereas with a paper book I would just skip back to the previous paragraph. I would recommend giving it a listen. At least up to the last hour. He did live an interesting life and is a good storyteller.
[Post Script] Two concepts I agreed with were the idea that nobody is “special”. There are many people going through the same or worse or better than you, you are not unique. I am also a strong advocate for taking responsibility for your own life. At least the things you can control. You can’t just sit around and blame others or circumstance if you could actually make a change yourself.
I can’t agree that the ultimate value is to get married and be committed to another person. I know enough to know I am toxic. I am a relationship killer. I’ve been in committed relationships before and I am the one who always ruins it with my behavior and mental illness complications. It is better for me to be in casual, short term relationships. That way less people get hurt. I can’t have anyone feeling responsible for me or trying to cure me.