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

 

The point is this: we all must give a fuck about something, in order to value something. And to value something, we must reject was is not that something. To value X, we must reject non-X (page 170).

I came to read this book on recommendation from a number of people who don’t generally reach for the ‘self-help’ type book – so I was intrigued.

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Before I started reading the book, I felt I needed a strategy. I chose to pause between chapters to contemplate the concepts of each. I took to the book with a highlighter to capture quotes within the text for quick reference later. As I continued through the book, this was a helpful way to focus the concepts that resonated with me. This helped because there are pages that were heavy on a story that provided ‘context’ and the lesson was buried in the pages. There were times I had to re read the paragraph a few times to capture the point and sometimes the direction of the story didn’t immediately marry with the lesson. This caused me to pause to reflect on the point – I agreed with some, disagreed with others, and some thoughts I was on the fence. The lessons were generally punchy and impactful – often one line comments that were direct and simple and overall, the points made me think – big tick for me.

Admittedly, after reading the first chapter, my initial thoughts I shared were that

The writing style is raw, direct and matter of fact – a lot of thought has clearly gone into his theory. And his logic is simple and relatable. I almost feel as though I am sitting across from the writer at the pub, beers in hand discussing life…and I love that feeling. 

The tone of the book isn’t for everyone – but quite fairly, neither are books written by Elizabeth Gilbert, Gabby Bernstein or seminars presented by Tony Robbins. The wonderful world of freedom of speech is we each have our own views and tastes – and essentially every taste can be catered for – which this book certainly caters for those who aren’t taken by the positive affirmation – life can be amazing people.

So let’s address the title. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck…The title had me pondering, as did the fact that this book was number one on the New York Times best seller list for many weeks selling over two million copies.

The title suggests that the writer has the secret recipe for living life in such a way that we can obtain a level of freedom, which quite frankly we are so desperately craving. In my mind, the title suggests the writer was offering a way to live without taking on all of life’s crap, which would fall away and the creation of teflon skin – where nothing sticks and you magically stop caring about the things that are currently taking up the space in your thoughts – which don’t necessarily need to be.

We as a society, are desperately seeking some reprieve from the stresses of life. We are often pulled in so many directions of expectations that the title of not giving a fuck is almost a promise that the book holds the answers of how to let it all go to life in a peace of sorts – but as I reached the end of the book, I am not convinced I feel like the book adequately delivered that message – but as the writer had points out – he wasn’t intending to make any one else’s life better because essentially he doesn’t give a fuck if someone likes the book anyway.

Just on that point – I found that somewhat disappointing – not because he said he didn’t care but because I felt he wasn’t being honest about not caring. I think the title was catchy and effective in attracting interest but I am not sure the content of the book was a true reflection of the titled – the content was about making the most of life and making choices about your life because as the writer himself says (at page 15)

Here’s a sneaky truth about life. There’s no such thing as not giving a fuck. You must give a fuck about something…The question, then is, what do you give a fuck about? What are you choosing to give a fuck about? 

The tone in this book shifts. There were moments where I felt the tone was the projection of anger, bitterness and harsh judgment of other people’s life. There were sweeping generalisations and moments where he played into stereotypes give the perception of ignorance. Those moments made me feel uncomfortable and distant to his words. There was a point in chapter three that I felt so uncomfortable and disconnected that I put the book down and instead googled the reviews of the book. Many of the reviews were not forgiving – which was not encouraging to continue but I chose to persist and I am honestly glad that I did.

There were moments where the tone was soft, deep and reflective – luring me back into his minds eye looking at life through his rear view mirror. There was sarcasm and flippant remarks to deal with some big life issues. The writer was honest in recalling personal life events and some very tragic stories which have obviously shaped his views of the world. Those stories felt honest and somewhat raw – almost as though he hadn’t originally intended many of them to even come out in the book.

The final chapter titled, …And then you die tells the tragic tale of the writer losing his good friend Josh during a party when he was 19 years old. The writer talks candidly about the emotional and mental impact of the death which the writer identifies as the defining moment when his life changed, and captures poetically

“…in a bizarre, backwards way, death is the light by which the shadow of all of life’s meaning is measured. Without death, everything would feel inconsequential, all experience arbitrary, all metrics and values suddenly zero”.

This is a very impactful concept and one which I wish had been the opening chapter. The writer instead chooses the last ten pages of the book to describe a hike along a cliff in which he illustrates the enlightenment of living with purpose which feels displaced and not the right way to end the book for me. I personally think that had he commenced the book with the last chapter, the tone of the book would have still been about choosing what to give a fuck about and not giving a fuck about the irrelevant things in life. I think a slight change in structure may have focused the writers message better and have left a greater impact.

I came to ultimately conclude that the status of best seller was a deep reflection of our current society. We are desperately seeking relatable and easy answers to life’s tough road. We are seeking reprieve from our stresses and we want permission to let go of the things we know shouldn’t impact our life and dictate our choices, but for many this isn’t a reality.

So the question left to be answered… would I recommend the book? Yes!

If you are looking for something to test your views – read it.

If you are in a space where you feel as though life is running on autopilot and you aren’t sure how to take back control – read it.

If life is sitting in a tough space and you are feeling lost – read it.

It may not deliver the answers to change your life – But…

To not give a fuck is to stare down life’s most terrifying and difficult challenges and still take action (page 12).

~ F.P

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