‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’ and 5 other self-help books to help us get over ourselves

I put together the weekly USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list. Whenever I am asked what I do for a living, I invariably get the exact same follow-up question: “What should I read?”

But I have a secret weapon in my back pocket: The list.

Every week I see what books make the list. Some titles flash on the list briefly while others slowly simmer, building an audience over time. It’s the books that slowly simmer that resonate most with readers — emotionally, intellectually or culturally. These are some of the books I recommend.

The latest book I would recommend is a self-help title that tells it like it is.

Why you should read Mark Manson’s book

The book has sold more than 8 million copies and been translated into 43 languages. After debuting briefly at No. 29 on our list in 2016, it fell off for three months then climbed back, returning to the top 50 in March of 2017 and remaining ever since.

Originally pitched as a book for millennials, its influence has extended well beyond. “One of the really surprising things is how universally embraced it has become,” Manson told USA TODAY, “and that was very unexpected and pleasantly surprising. I think it taps into something universal.”

Manson’s approach in “Subtle Art” is direct and honest. The advice he offers is simple and critical, without being condescending. “When you read a self-help book, it is like you are reading the author’s greatest-hits album. … Nobody can relate to that,” explains Manson. “Instead of filling the book with the highest moments in my life, I wanted to fill the book with the lowest moments.”

So he wrote about his girlfriend leaving him, a close friend dying and his parents divorcing. “I wanted to make a point to leave them unresolved,” said Manson. In life “you don’t resolve that stuff. You suffer. And then, as time goes on, you suffer a little less and you learn a couple of things from it, and that’s it. There is no secret. … The whole point of the book is that you have to figure it out for yourself.”

Manson noticed that in most of the countries where the book has resonated there had also been some political crisis or controversy. “I think there are a lot of people that are identifying with that more negative viewpoint.” But he also concedes the book’s popularity could be tied to the technological state of our world.

Thanks to the internet, we live in a world where we have access to almost everything and everyone at any time. As a result, we ask ourselves “what is worth paying attention to and what is worth caring about? Those are fundamentally philosophical questions,” says Manson. “We are all online all day every day and exposed to so much stuff that we need to devote filters to know what to care about. And that fundamentally is what ‘Subtle Art’ is about. It’s how do you create that filter for yourself?”

Manson’s pragmatic and philosophical approach has been influenced by others. Not a huge self-help book fan himself, when asked what one he would recommend, Manson recommended his favorite, “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck. Originally published in 1978, “It is all about how choosing the less comfortable path is what is healthiest for us.”

Other self-help book options

“Get Over It!” by Iyanla Vanzant. The author has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and as host of Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Iyanla: Fix My Life.” In this book, according to the publisher, Vanzant reminds us that “anything and everything we experience is a function of what and how we think.”

“Ego Is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday. The writer and blogger writes that while most of us think the main impediment to a successful life comes from the outside world, it is actually, more often, ourselves that get in the way.

“The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. The basic four agreements the author tackles and expands upon in his book are be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions and always do your best.

“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. Chronicling his life in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, the neurologist and psychiatrist focuses on how one’s mindset affects one’s future and finding meaning in almost any circumstance.

“Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown.Manson has often recommended this book to others. Subtitled “How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, , Love, Parent, and Lead” Brown writes that vulnerability is not a weakness, but perhaps our greatest strength.


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3 thoughts on “‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’ and 5 other self-help books to help us get over ourselves”

  1. I just bought Manson’s book (along with the sequel “Everything is F*cked”) and am looking forward to reading it after enjoying his posts for years 🙂

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