alligator, reptile

Darn and dang it all, if it hasn’t happened again!

Once again, I’m previewing* a book with a provocative title. And once again, the book in question is more nuanced than its title might cause one to suspect at first glance.

Like the book F*cked (which I previewed last June), it drops the f-bomb in the title—while also censoring it. And like the book Why Buddhism Is True (which I previewed last August), its title tells only part of the story—forcing the author to reveal the rest of it as soon as possible, so as not to lead the reader too far astray.

To be fair, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson has the words “subtle art” in its title, so Manson is upfront about the fact that there’s some nuance at work. Nuance is essential to a good read; the real world is more complex than can be expressed in a snappy title or slogan. Why Buddhism Is True does not vouch for one-hundred percent of that religion and all of its aspects; likewise, while not giving a crap** is, truly, a subtle art, it is not the only subtle art required by those who want to achieve what Manson calls “living a good life.”

As Manson takes pains to explain, when he talks about the subtle art of not giving a crap, what he’s really talking about is the subtle art of deciding what to give a crap about. I suppose the title The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck About Some Things, But Giving a Major F*ck About Other Things, and Basically Figuring Out When to and Not to Give a Flying F*ck didn’t make it through the marketing department.

I blogged not long ago about judging a book by its cover. Interestingly, a friend of mine saw Manson’s book in my hand and remarked that the title turned her off. Thus, though provocative titles will attract one audience, they will also repel another.

It is important to remember that gimmicky titles are not the whole story. Sometimes they hide well-researched, nuanced content within. So when judging a book by its cover, it is wiser to assume it’s going to be awesome, but be disappointed (you can always stop reading) than to assume it’s going to be terrible, but miss out on being pleasantly surprised (you won’t gain knowledge that you could have gained).

Different people will have different initial reactions; we can’t help it! Is profanity cool or crude? Are outrageous titles enticing or off-putting? Is the alligator cute or creepy?

But we can consciously decide what our subsequent reactions will be.


*I prefer to call my book-related blog posts previews, as opposed to reviews, for several reasons: (1) I do not attempt to encapsulate the gist of the entire book; (2) I avoid spoilers; and (3) my purpose is not to inform the reader about the book and offer opinions about its strengths and weaknesses, but rather to highlight read-worthy books as well as interesting nuggets within each book, both sharing the books' merits and using the books' ideas as springboards for further ideas.

**Do you mind if I use the word crap? Is it too mamsy-pamsy—or too vulgar—for your tastes?