The Subtle Art of writing a good self-help book: A review


Look around you. The world is in shambles, isn’t it? Everyone suffers from some kind of inferiority complex, or is sick of giving too much to their relationships, or is devastated about a recent failure- to the point where they believe life is no longer worth living!

In times likes these, we need somebody to help point us in the right direction-and not everybody has the time or the money to pay regular visits to a shrink, not to mention that what most people need is a tap on the shoulder, not a professional who asks useless questions in a detached manner.

In the age of the self-help booksplosion, Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” is perhaps one of the most real books I’ve read and reviewed till date.

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The world has never been more messed up than it is today- or maybe it hasn’t been this kind of messed up. Either way, it’s good that people are slowly becoming more aware of how messed up they are and deciding to take action.

However, the whole seeing-a-shrink think is still taboo in India because people here believe that only people who are actually crazy seek help in the form of therapy. So, in a country of 132.42 crore sceptics, there are a lot of bottle up feelings that need to be decompressed somehow. Here, ladies and gentleman, is a world-class, well paying market for self-help books that consumers lap up mindlessly, sometimes while bringing friends.

I have come across many, many self-help books written by some dubious authors, some dubious books written by famous internet celebrities, and the obscure “PhD.” holders writing books that shoot to fame by repeating the same principle in every chapter while telling us that repeating the same principles to yourself everyday will make you a better person. There’s someone who takes their advice real seriously.
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In an era of formulaic brainwashing with little scientific proof and more “reinforcement of positivity”, “sequential thinking”, and other mumbo-jumbo that readers can neither connect to, nor be excited by, star blogger Mark Manson is a breath of fresh air.

The Subtile Art of Not Giving a Fuck (henceforth referred to at times as The Subtle Art) has clearly not been written with any subtlety, but that’s what makes it so endearing and down-to-Earth.  Far from listing copious rules like one would put up on a kindergarten classroom, The Subtle Art poses sensible real-life questions, all the while firm in the author’s belief of what consists of good values.

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There is no ambiguity at any point, with Manson asking the hard-hitting questions: What do you value more? What are you willing to work hard for?

He breaks in chapters with common associations made by the people, and why, in fact, those assumptions are wrong. Manson extracts useful inference from his observations, giving us advice that at first sounds like baloney, but then isn’t. Counterintuitive is the right word!

I only looked at this book because its title was attention-grabbing, and I was at a point in my life when I was dealing with a whole load of rubbish. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck seemed liked exactly what I needed in life, though I must confess I wasn’t sure what the book would really talk about.

After a few months of thinking about whether to purchase it or not, all without having the slightest clue as to what the book was about, I finally got a footpath copy of it, and have not looked back since. I was sucked in to the book. Concise, to-the-point chapters and a very casual, conversational writing style was enough to keep me hooked to every word.

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When Lilly Singh released her “How to be a Bawse”, I was all over it because I was familiar with her struggle through depression, and her hard earned fame along the rocky road to success. It failed to impress me, and came off as rather corporate and clichéd. I expected this book to be no different, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Mark Manson regaled from the beginning with his uninhibited narration, as well as the feeling of the words actually being his nuggets of wisdom, not something out of the handbook at IBM. The more I delved into the book, the more I noticed my own faults without feeling attacked or alienated from the author’s narration. I loved it, and have since reread the book- that does mean something!

Manson uses each chapter’s concept to help introduce us to the next one, and also reinforce the previous chapter’s learnings along the way. This ties the entire book together with the bow of connectivity. It also helps that this book isn’t a huge tome- it is, in fact, filled with very simple realisations that lead us to happiness.

The verdict:

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There’s no question about it- with beautifully grounded stories and harshness that doesn’t come off as holier-than-thou, Manson has produced a masterpiece. Even though I’m late to the part, I give The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck  4.5 stars out of 5.

This book is not for anybody who wants to go meditating at a yoga retreat and relies solely on lavender aromatics to relieve stress. It is only for those who wish to contemplate the inner workings of the decision making part of their personality, wishing to change rudimentary beliefs and examining what’s truly important to them. It’s quite like confronting that unpleasantly high pile of laundry you’ve been avoiding all month.

The next time you’re facing a huge life crisis and you don’t want (or can’t afford to) walk in to the offices of a psychologist, you know where to look.


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