Book Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson – A guide for finding the right values to give a fuck about the right things

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good LifeThe Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I actually first heard of this book while I was reading an article about Millennial Burnout. The author of that article knocked this book, which now I realize that author clearly hadn’t read this book! I think this book is completely misnamed, because this book isn’t about ‘Not Giving a Fuck’ it’s really about ‘Giving a fuck about the right things.’ I think this is an important distinction and one that, if you judge the book by its cover, you’ll definitely miss.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on depression. I’ve read 1 book written by a layman that covers a great deal of different research on depression, Lost Connections. I’ve read another book that deals with Trauma and how that can cause depression, The Body Keeps the Score. Finally, I’ve read a book on the science of love and how unhealthy relationships while growing up and as adults can cause depression, General Theory of Love. I believe that I can add this as a fourth book to this list. In Lost Connections the author argues that a major cause of depression in our lives is a misalignment with our core values and the values of society. I believe that this book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, is an entire book about that.

The author’s premise is that we are valuing, and thus giving a fuck about, the wrong things. That could be chasing material items, women (the author himself is a self confessed womanizer), a bigger paycheck, a new job that will solve all their problems, and other things. We are chasing these things, because this is what we’ve been taught to value through our friends and families.

However, these things do not make you happy. Solving the right types of problems can make you happy. Those problems that you solve are what you value. Seeking them out can help make you happy. The pain and struggle of solving those problems lead to happiness.

This rings true to me. I’m struggling with work and finding balance and happiness with my life. I’ve had great success in my work and have made significantly more money since entering the job market. However, I am not less depressed. If anything my depression deepened. As a result, I feel like I’m flailing.

This book helped me put into context a lot of different ideas that I had read in the other three books. In a way it synthesized those ideas into something that was more actionable. In some ways, the action is to do something, anything. But start by putting one step forward. Try something small and take responsibility of that.

Responsibility is a key theme in this book. You take responsibility to how you respond to anything that happens to you. This isn’t to say it’s your fault this thing happened. For example, if you get sick, that is not your fault. How you deal with being sick is your responsibility. If someone treats you like shit at work, that’s not your fault, but how you respond to them is your responsibility. If you set boundaries and make it clear that behavior is unacceptable and act professional, you can start to change that relationship. If you retaliate and escalate things, you are responsible for that. Even if the person, really pissed you off.

I think this book is also important given the conversation around Toxic Masculinity. Toxic Masculinity is all about entitlement. This book argues that entitlement is one of the major reasons why people are unhappy. It leads to shitty values that make you a shitty person. If you are pissed off that people don’t like toxic masculinity, it’s because you’re concerned some of your behavior may be construed as toxic. You’re responsible for that response. You’re responsible for inspecting your values and your behavior to understand if you are a toxic person. If you find yourself wanting, then it is your responsibility to change and improve yourself. You can. This book helps provide a roadmap for it.

This book isn’t perfect, of course. The author definitely leans into the title during the beginning of the book, which can get old. There are other places where the author does this as well, because it seems to fit. However, if you are able to get past that bit of childish fun to get into the meat of the book, it’s well worth it.

I would strongly suggest that if you find this book interesting to read the other books about depression I suggested above. These together can help you work through your depression, if you are also depressed.

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Review: The Traitor Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade, #1) by Seth Dickinson

The Traitor Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade, #1)The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a really interesting case study in leading the reader astray. The author does a phenomenal job of misdirection ensuring the audience bought into the main storyline in the second half of the book. After the twist happen, I certainly thought back on the book and realized I missed a number of clues leading up to the twist.

That aside, I loved this book. If there’s a book that you want to use to educate someone on the negative impacts of colonization, I think this is an excellent start. On the one hand it’ll challenge those people because of the complexity of the cultures that are being conquered and on the other hand because it talks openly of the tools colonizers use to dominate other cultures. In most fantasy series the only tool of colonization is military might. There’s some nuance in Malazan Book of the fallen in some cases, mostly Lether, but generally it’s military might.

In this book, that’s turned on it’s head and the characters openly discuss the best colonization tools for the culture they are working to conquer. As an American who has recently been to Hawai’i, where I learned a great deal about the history and conquest of those islands, it was painfully obvious these books are based on conquest like the US conquest and colonization of Hawai’i.

I recommend this book for anyone that wants a unique way to talk about colonization with a fantastic set of characters. Including POC, LGBTQ, and nontraditional relationships.

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Dealing With Depression at Work

I tweeted this earlier today

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Dealing with depression at work is a real struggle for most people. If you look at the link the first item is to talk with your boss. I do think it’s important to discuss your depression with your boss, however, I think beforehand, you really need a plan. Depending on your depression this may be an impossibility to come up with on your own. If you’re depressed the way I was depressed, you struggle to discuss it with loved ones or your friends. These friends may suspect you have depression or serious changes in moods. They may not understand it, but they’ve stuck by you. So, in my opinion, these are the people to start with.

Talk with what support network you have. If you don’t have a strong one, then build one in a community where you feel safe. Where I live, I really don’t have much in the way of a support network, my wife and a couple friends. Before going to therapy, most of my support network was from my gaming community. Recently, we’ve been much more open about our depression and how we’re working to deal with it individually. With them I’ve discussed how I plan to deal with depression at work. Gotten feedback and tried to implement it.

Changing is really hard with depression. It never seems worth it. So, the second step I would take, after starting to talk about depression you trust, is to start doing breathing exercises. It’s a small thing, but listening to a 3 minute headspace meditation is super helpful. It pulls you out of your current situation, which may have involved a trigger of some kind, and allows you to control something. Controlling your breathing gets you back in touch with your body, gets you away from your phone (which allows you to avoid rather than work through your feelings), and away from the immediate stressor (as the article recommends). Your smoking friends have known the power of this for a while. When things get stressful, many of them will take a smoke break. With the cigarette they control their breathing and pull themselves out of the situation. Now, smoking isn’t the answer, but definitely breathing and meditating can help and are much healthier.

The other problem with discussing depression with your boss, is that unless they have depression or have gotten help for depression, most of them are not equipped with the tools to help you. You’ll need to go to them with a plan and reasons why you need these things. On top of that, if your manager and job are a source of your depression, it’s unlikely you’ll get the relief you need from the manager and/or job itself.

Ultimately, a combination of a strong support network, self-care, and therapy are the best long term treatments for depression. If you are unable to afford therapy, I suggest reading about the topic (I’ve written a few book reviews about the topic Body Keeps the Score and Lost Connections) and practicing some of the recommendations until you’re able to get yourself into a position to afford therapy. Keep in mind, one of those solutions may require getting a new job. So, maybe talking to a career coach and updating your resume can be some of the therapy you need.

Finally, you aren’t alone. Build your support network one person at a time. If you feel like you might have depression talk about it when you’re feeling up with just one person. Then when you’re feeling down, it’ll be easier to talk with them about it. Starting the conversation when you aren’t at your lowest is best way to have a conversation. It’s not easy. It’s important though.

Review of The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #6)The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was completely unaware that this was the 6th book of a series. I don’t think that really hurt my understanding of the expertly crafted world. This book explores, race, the sexes, sexuality, and the meaning of being human. Int his universe there are a number of worlds where humans live, at least 84, there could be more, but we only know of 83, plus the planet of Winter, where the story takes place.

The world is interesting for two main reasons. First, it takes place on a planet that has been in an iceage for millennia. Second, humans don’t have the two obvious genders, male and female. The humans on this planet are able to, and do, switch between the two during their “kemmering” whichis the ONLY time there are any sexes on the planet. In fact, the rest of the time they are essentially eunuchs. Technically having both male and female sex organs at this point. The book is interesting, because it’s a study of what life could be like without the duality of male/female. These discussions are important in this day and age, given importance of Trans rights in the political discourse and the general transphobia in parts of the polity (I literally looked at my twitter feed and the ACLU had just posted an article about a trans girl in Texas).

The book is, generally, written from the perspective of an Earth human, a young black man named Genly Ai. Which allows us to feel very connected to this book. The character struggles with handling the lack of duality and continually assigns maleness or femaleness to characters. He often gets them very wrong, especially in the case of his “Landlady.” Who looks more feminine to Genly Ai than many of the other humans on this planet. However, whenever he asked, he learned that the Landlady had never had any children of the flesh but had many children overall (essentially meaning the Landlady had never gotten pregnant but had gotten a number of other people pregnant).

Aside from the obvious relevance of the topic related to Trans rights, the book looks at how politics can change when a leader changes. How a peaceful country that has never known war, can create an otherness out of their neighbor and begin down the path of war. You can see through the action of people the impact of rhetoric of their leaders. This was written at the beginning of the Nixon administration and the end of the Johnson administration. But I think it still rings true given the Trump administration today. Our sense of otherness has moved from outside of our boarders to within our boarders in a terrifying way.

I really enjoyed this book. It was very thought provoking and definitely something worth checking out.

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Review of Farsighted by @StevenBJohnson

Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the MostFarsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most by Steven Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Steven Johnson is always an interesting read. I’ve been a fan of his since I initially read “Where Good Ideas Come From.” In this book, he clearly begins with the question of “how do we make good decisions?” In a way, this book is the natural sequel (if it can be said that non-fiction books can have sequels), to Ideas. If you wonder how you come up with an interesting idea, the process is similar to coming up with a good decision – or at least an informed methodical decision.

Like ideas, decisions don’t really come from the blue. Even the famous stories that Gladwell discusses in Blink, come from a long history of experience and relate to the amount of information that we have about a given situation. Now, we can of course, come to a decision without all the information we need. In fact, it’s guaranteed that this will happen. We never have all the information we ever need to make a decision. This book takes that as an axiom, clearly stated and referenced throughout the book. It’s not just a one off obvious statement. Johnson notes that the uncertainty of the outcome prevents a perfect decision plus, the fact that we cannot test what a decision would do before taking action. The best we can do is simulate and for most decisions, the best way to simulate is to tell a story.

In fact, day dreaming is one of the best ways for us to tell a story about how life could be different or how we could positively impact our lives. For example, if you’re thinking of getting a new job, day dreaming about how that job can improve your life is a great way of helping understand the impacts of your decision making process.

This book includes a number of real life examples of complex decisions that went well or went poorly. In the cases where things went well he digs into the decision making process and how these tools made an effective case for following the decision that was ultimately used. In the cases where things went poorly, he investigates the blindspots that lead to the poor decision (including a couple personal anecdotes) and the result.

I found this book to be really helpful and believe that it provides tools that can help improve our deliberation process.

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What Books Have Meant to Me

I have been a voracious reader most of my life. However, it didn’t come easy to me at first. In First Grade, where we really started to learn to read, I struggled a great deal. I always feared reading out loud because I would jumble words. They would swim in my vision and make it really difficult to read. I still switch words and I feel like when I’m reading out loud, I’m staring at the whole page rather than a specific line. It’s very difficult. However, I liked the stories that I was plunged into and it definitely made things feel worth it. In 3rd grade I really started to read ahead, but started to get major headaches while reading, so I had to get glasses just for reading. It eventually turned into requiring glasses all the time.

In 5th grade I really jumped into the world of Fantasy. When i’d get in trouble with the parents, we’d get sent to corners and one of the corners was next to my parent’s “nice” book shelf. In there was a really old version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I was super interested by the book spines, as there was this crazy eye in the center of a ring. I decided to read this book when I got an assignment for doing a diorama about a specific book. Most of my classmates selected much shorter books, but I was super proud of selecting that book.

A few years later, my friends and I had a falling out. I ended up falling back into that series again. I read everything i could get my hands on. I was so depressed, but didn’t really understand what depression was. I was alone, but couldn’t really articulate to my parents and nor could my parents help me with my depression and loneliness because they didn’t have the emotional tools to help me with my depression. My dad specifically, because he was struggling with his own depression so he just wasn’t there.

As a result, I end up spending a great deal of time with Middle Earth. Since this was around when Metallica Load came out, I deeply associated that album with the Lord of the Rings. To the point where I was really disappointed with the video of “Hero of the Day” because I kept associating the narrator of that song with Frodo. It’s not the worst video, but it definitely didn’t fit with what I was expecting given how many times I heard that album while reading those books.

Over the years I’ve escaped into books to deal with the depression rooted in my parents fighting. Dealing with my girlfriend in HS. The divorce of my parents. Books were always my escape from these difficult times. Lately, I’ve been depressed to the point where it was a struggle to read.

I plan to start a small series on here for when the fancy strikes to write about a book that meant something to me and why it meant something to me. Something in more detail than what I wrote, here, about Lord of the Rings. This idea came from the Movies with Mikey episode about what Animation Taught Us. For me though, since I was limited in what I could watch on TV, including Movies, I think that Books are more appropriate. I’m not sure exactly how this will play out, so we’ll see.

Review: The Queen of Crows by Myke Cole

The Queen of Crows (The Sacred Throne, #2)The Queen of Crows by Myke Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a quick read. I wouldn’t say it’s a light read, there’s definitely some serious heavy material covered in this book. It doesn’t hit you over the head with the parallels to the Inquisition as the first one did, but it didn’t need to. That was already established in the fantastic first book. This book continues where the Armored Saint left off, Heloise trying to protect her family. Like the first book, it’s brutal, the heroine does not have an easy time of things and isn’t perfect. She’s young, very inexperienced at fighting, and making it up as she goes. She pays for it. So does her community. You want her to be perfect and succeed, much like Barnard does. She’s flawed, human, and great though.

This book really delivers in a lot of ways. If you’re looking for an easy entrance into the fantasy genre and want to have a strong female lead (who is also a lesbian), this book is definitely for you.

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