The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F* — Mark Manson

Jan van den Berg
Dec 24, 2019 · 3 min read

When this book came out it was seemingly everywhere. Especially in airport bookshops (I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not though). Or maybe I am imagining things and the book just sticks out, more than others, because of the swear word in the title, which is …. quaint?

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F* — Mark Manson (2016) — 224 pages

I happened to find* a Dutch copy and thought: well, why not? Seemed short enough.

And sure enough you can get through it in a few short hours. And I admit it sure did help that the book opens with an anecdote about the writer Bukowski. So mr. Manson definitely had my attention.

It’s clear Mark Manson has a background as a blogger. His writing is proof of that. In an uncomplicated way he explains complicated things. He knows when to stop or when to speed things up and he knows how to entice the reader by mixing personal anecdotes with more or less interesting analogies.

Overall though I have mixed feelings about this book. The F-word is used way too much for my taste. But OK, that’s the gimmick, I get it. I found it more problematic that (I felt) I was treated as an idiot. Especially, since I think I am very well aware of what was going on:

Mark Manson has written a book — based on well established stoic principles — for the masses that do not otherwise read books.

Stoicism

However, there is very little mention of stoicism and the stoic ideas (just one throwaway sentence). Which is strange. Because there are plenty of other ideas and philosophies he cites (and even cites Tim Ferris, so I definitely know he is familiar with Seneca). So this makes it almost seem like he is trying to hide it? Maybe ‘the airport reader’ doesn’t care where these ideas come from, but I do. And he surely must know his ideas are well established stoic principles (from Aurelius, Seneca and others).

Regardless of all this, this book has a lot of truths in it. Truths I was mostly already familiar with, but nonetheless truths. And I don’t mind admitting that I did enjoy reading this book. Mark Manson has carved out a niche for himself by packaging stoic principles in a modern, in-your-face type of language. If that’s your thing, this might be for you. If not, I can point out that there are also many other books with the same message.

*Side-note: one reason I picked up this book is because I found a bookmark in Bregman’s (highly recommended) book that I just finished. The bookmark had an add for Mark Manson’s books. Which is a bit ironic since Bregman dissects and invalidates the findings of the famous Stephen Milgram experiment, while Manson cites the experiment results as a source. Curious, right?


Originally published at Jan van den Berg.

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