The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (Audiobook) by Mark Manson, Roger Wayne: A Mix of Common Sense, Cynicism, Self-Aggrandizement, Clever Writing, and a Great Narrator

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (Audiobook)The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

by Mark Manson, Roger Wayne (Narrator)

Unabridged Audiobook, 5 hrs., 17 min.
HarperAudio, 2016

Read: October 1, 2018

I’d seen this book around, and let my eyes slide right off given the title. Clearly, it wasn’t for me. Then a couple of months ago, I heard it referenced in a couple of podcast interviews (no, I don’t remember who talked about it — but at least one of them said something thoughtful about it) and my cubicle-mate listened to it at the same time and seemed to enjoy it. So I figured I’d give it a shot. I’m very glad I did, really.

I’m also glad that HarperCollins’ website gives such a thorough blurb about the book, which will save me so much time — so let’s take a moment to read what they said:

           In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be “positive” all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. “F**k positivity,” Mark Manson says. “Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it.” In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected modern society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up.

Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—”not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault.” Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.

There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.

Sure, some of that is overblown — its point is to sell you the book, right? But, by and large, that’s a good summary of the book’s highlights. Manson’s point isn’t to stop giving a f*ck period, it’s to give fewer f*cks in general and to make sure the f*cks you give are for the right/important stuff in life. That’s pretty basic, but pretty easily ignored advice: everything seems important, but not everything is. Focus on the important stuff, care about that, and let the rest go — if it works out, great. I’m not sure if this is different from Carlson’s book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff — but it probably has more laughs and profanity.

Manson is entirely too impressed with himself (or at least he comes across that way), and he never convinces me that there’s a reason to heed his advice over anyone else’s. But on the whole, what he says makes a lot of sense. Do I think that ultimately, this is all a house of cards that won’t stand intense scrutiny? Yup. But I think that of every bit of man-made advice — Manson’s is more amusingly delivered than most, and won’t get the devotee into too much trouble if they apply this recklessly.

Roger Wayne’s narration elevates the entire thing — there’s not a moment that I don’t confuse his voice for Manson’s. It felt like I was attending one of the most intense self-help seminars in history and that Manson got going and just wouldn’t stop (not that anyone tried to make him). Wayne added voices (his Disappointment Panda voice is the best character I’ve heard in an audiobook since Luke Daniel’s take on Hearne’s Oberon), flair and a sense of passion to the text. When Manson approached poignancy, Wayne made it all the more so. Fantastic work.

I’d probably give this 3-stars if I’d read the text — amusing, thought-provoking, with some good advice. But, you add in Wayne’s narration? I’ve got to bump it up to 4. Seriously, he’s just that good. This isn’t a book for everyone (I know several readers of this blog that should avoid it just for the language), but for those who are capable of sorting out the wheat from the chaff — this is a fun and potentially helpful read.

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4 Stars2018 Library Love Challenge

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Lessons From Lucy by Dave Barry: America’s Funniest Human Tries to Learn a Few New Tricks from an Old Dog

Lessons From LucyLessons From Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog

by Dave Barry

eARC, 208 pg.
Simon & Schuster, 2018
Read: July 19, 2018

Before I say anything else, Barry has set up an Instagram page (well, probably not him, actually — he states in the book he doesn’t understand Instagram) for his dog, Lucy. You should absolutely check it out and then come back to read what I have to say about the book. Dog Pictures > my blog. Pretty near always.

With that out of the way . . . Dave Barry has been a dog person for most of his life, one of the many reasons I like him. I distinctly, and fondly, remember columns and/or references to Earnest and Zippy (the emergency backup dog) years ago. Those two make a brief appearance in this book, but they aren’t the focus. The focus (if you can’t tell from the title) is his dog, Lucy. At the time of writing, Barry and Lucy are the same age — 70 (or 7 times 10 in her case), which means that both of them have many fewer days ahead of them than behind — which sounds awfully morbid for Dave Barry to talk about, but he does so frequently and purposefully.

As they’re at similar stages in life, Barry notices a huge difference between the two — Lucy is far happier and seemingly better adjusted than he is. So he sets out to try to learn a few lessons about life from her, which he passes on to his readers. Things like Pay Attention to the People You Love; Don’t Let Your Happiness Depend on Things; and Don’t Stop Having Fun. None of these, Barry knows, are original or ground-breaking — they’re pretty much common sense. Yet, they’re the kind of common sense things that he (like many/most humans) doesn’t actually do a great job at.

The result is a mixture of a Self-Help book and a Humor book — humor about himself, his life, as well as dogs. Sometimes the swing between the two genres can be jarring, but that’s pretty rare. For the most part, he moves easily between the two, taking the readers along with him on this ride. I can’t tell you how many times I went from grinning, chuckling or laughing out loud to getting misty-eyed within a couple of pages. It seems that Barry has learned a little bit about writing over the decades.

I’ve loved Barry’s humor longer than either of us would probably care to admit. One of his strengths is finding a way to take an old joke, or at least a joke everyone’s made before — like, say, I dunno, dogs sniffing each other’s hind-quarters — and make it feel fresh and new. More importantly, funny. He’s also able to make jumps from premise to punchline that no one expects. There is, for example, a Hugh Hefner joke where one doesn’t even come close to belonging — and it works perfectly. Even knowing that, you won’t see it coming until you’re snickering at it.

As for the heart-felt material? It works pretty well, too. I don’t think anyone will walk away from this book thinking “Wow! That was insightful. I never would have thought of it on my own!” Nor do I think Barry was trying for it. But, readers will appreciate the reminders to live like Lucy (or their own dog), and the way Barry phrases things might add some freshness to the concept. Which is all anyone can really ask.

I really don’t know if this is Barry’s best — but it’s up there. The ratio of Attempted Joke to Funny Joke is pretty high, I’m not sure if I can think of a higher one in his ouvre. Lessons From Lucy is, without a doubt, his most mature, thoughtful and touching work (that’s a pretty low bar, I realize — a bar he’s worked hard to keep low, too). Couple that with me being a sucker for a Dog Book — even if it is a semi-Self Help book — and I can’t help but give it 5 Stars. This is a winner, no matter what.

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5 Stars

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Simon & Schuster via NetGalley in exchange for this post — which is my honest opinion and pleasure to give — thanks to both for this.

Do More Better by Tim Challies

Do More BetterDo More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity

by Tim Challies

PDF, 114 pg.
Cruciform Press, 2015
Read: December 11 – 12, 2015


Abraham Lincoln reportedly said about someone’s book, ” People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.” If it were chronologically possible, he might have been talking about Do More Better. I am not the person who likes this sort of thing, but I have profited from reading some productivity-improvement books — this does not fit into that category. Could it help some people? I don’t see why not, but there’s a lot of people who won’t see their lives fitting into his mold (count me as one of them).

But honestly? I was turned off by the book before he started the practical section. I’m not going to give a detailed analysis, this isn’t the type of blog to do that, but I can give a thumbnail.

The first few chapters, the theory, or groundwork for his productivity guidelines are pretty questionable. Despite Challies’ proof-texting, I’m not convinced that any apostle or prophet encouraged anything along these lines (you could make the case that Solomon’s Proverbs could be used to these ends, not that I see Challies appealing to them). It looks so much like the kind of schemes we Americans (and, I suppose, Canadians) like — if I just do X, Y and Z, I can be whatever I want to be. If I eat all my veggies, especially the gross tasting ones, I can grow up big and strong. If I implement Method Q with Style R and Teaching S on a consistent basis, I’ll have well-adjusted, successful kids. And so on.

Chapter 5 on are so programmatic, so specific to his own scheme, that it’s restrictive (I’m sure he’d argue these aren’t hard-and-fast rules, only guidelines, but to implement them as he suggests, you’d pretty much have to treat them as hard and fast for however long it takes to set them as habits). I’d spend so much time for the first few weeks with his book in one hand and my Galaxy Note in the other, just making sure I was doing what I was supposed to be doing as far as my Tasks, Calendar and Information were concerned — even before my weekly Reviews. How would I get anything else done? Good question. As an example — I’ve been an Evernote junkie for 4 years now (this was composed on Evernote), but to use it the way he wants me to would take a focused readjustment.

Lastly, this is the kind of book that can only be produced in the affluent West. More than one author/speaker has talked about “The Cave Test” when it comes to evaluating worship “styles” — if it can be duplicated in a cave while meeting in secret, it’s fitting for Christians. While reading this, I wondered just how many countries (or parts thereof) in this world, where practicing Challies’ principles would be possible. The fact that a large percentage of the Church could not (and has not) been able to think in these terms — much less put this into practice — says a lot about their role in the Christian life.

I suppose I should say something about the writing — it’s certainly competent, clear and succinct. But it’s not at all interesting. Can you write about productivity/time management/etc. in an interesting, even entertaining fashion? Sure — see Chris Hardwick’s The Nerdist Way (not at all Rated G) as one example — but that’s not saying you have to. I don’t need to be entertained every second of the day, but if you want me to stay with a book (even a short one), you need to be more interesting than my microwave’s Instruction Manual. This was just so bland it was hard to keep focused.

I’m not suggesting that no one read this book, if reading the product description makes you think it could help you, I’m not going to argue. But I’m certainly not going to to suggest anyone go out and grab a copy — or even to borrow one. Do I think it’d be better if he removed his purported theological underpinnings from this? Yes. I’m also convinced it wouldn’t make a lick of difference to Chapters 5-10 in application (which speaks volumes).

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I received this book from the kind people of Cruciform Press for this review, I hope they don’t regret it.

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1 1/2 Stars