Book review: “The subtle art of not giving a f*ck”

Now this is one interesting book! And very very well written. Thanks to my old friend and colleague Dejan Miličić for bringing my attention to it.

I just loved how author sneaked in the parallel between Charles Bukowski and himself. It is not obvious, it is not in the same part of the book, so I will leave it up to you to discover it. Enjoy a bit of literature-detective work.

Mark Manson has a good way to build a point. First he makes a claim. Then he relates to a research, event from past or other “external” resource. On top of that he depicts some event from his own life or some interesting story that fits in the point like key into the lock. For me as a reader, after those steps, it was very easy to relate to it. We all have similar stories so it’s easy to recognize patterns and get compassionate. And voila, I am on board with his say-so. Ding-ding-ding-ding – my alarm rings, because such approach can be misused as manipulative technique to build a quasi science.

I of course do not agree with everything. I do agree that separating guilt and responsibility is important. Assuming responsibility (which is future) is important. Not giving a f*ck about guilt (which is past), and especially blaming by others, is even more important. I definitely agree with “You are not special” chapter. He also touches the value of suffering (even though I prefer more Seneca’s practicing poverty than genuine suffering) which has a point too.

Still, be careful with responsibilities. You have heard saying

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

Well, read the part using the war/post-war story about Hiroo Onoda as example. After that one it is safe to say: “The road to hell can be paved by assumed responsibilities”.

CNN reported: “A Japanese soldier who hunkered down in the jungles of the Philippines for nearly three decades, refusing to believe that World War II had ended, has died in Tokyo. Hiroo Onoda was 91 years old.
In 1944, Onoda was sent to the small island of Lubang in the western Philippines to spy on U.S. forces in the area. Allied forces defeated the Japanese imperial army in the Philippines in the latter stages of the war, but Onoda, a lieutenant, evaded capture. While most of the Japanese troops on the island withdrew or surrendered in the face of oncoming American forces, Onoda and a few fellow holdouts hid in the jungles, dismissing messages saying the war was over.
For 29 years, he survived on food gathered from the jungle or stolen from local farmers.”

To repeat, I do not agree with everything Manson lays out. But it is one smart book. Sometimes book is too USA specific. Issues presented as general problem, can be different for North America and Europe, or Asia. It is not as cowboy as “The Complete Software Developer’s Career Guide” which is at least 1/3 or 1/2 useless for someone in Norway for example. Yet, that career guide is another cup of tea I will touch in another blog post.


If I was in total control of my behavior (as you are of yours… noooooot!), I still wouldn’t run it as this book proposes. It would probably be hybrid of “not giving a f*ck book”, Christian Values, one love, Nine Noble Virtues of Viking lifestyle, Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink – not necessary in that order 🙂

Thanks for reading, Milos