A lot of readers and fans of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck have emailed me asking me for more information about what books I read or reference and want some form of bibliography. As a big fan of “Further Reading” sections myself, I decided to put together this rundown of the major influences on The Subtle Art and references used.
All in all, I read somewhere between 60-70 books specifically in research for The Subtle Art, and many sections of the book reference other readings I’ve done for fun in the past. So there’s a lot that went into it. Below are merely the “Greatest Hits” of all of those influences. Enjoy.
Chapter 1: Don’t Try
Bukowski’s first three novels are largely auto-biographical, so if you want to get into his work, his personality, and his amazingly sparse use of language, then I recommend Post Office, Women, and Ham on Rye, probably in that order. For a taste of his poetry, I recommend his reading of “Bluebird”.
The Feedback Loop from Hell stuff is basically a cute summation of Kristin Neff’s research into self-compassion. You can learn about her work from her aptly titled book, Self-Compassion.
The last stuff in the chapter is an echo of David Foster Wallace’s famous speech, “This is Water” which is re-posted on this site, as well as one of my favorite things that I’ve ever read.
Chapter 2: Happiness Is a Problem
Readers of Herman Hesse’s Siddartha will recognize my bastardized version of the Buddha’s story.
A lot of the ideas in this chapter are inspired by the research and ideas presented in Dan Gilbert’s fantastic book Stumbling on Happiness, which I’ve now recommended on this site like 30 different times.
Viktor Frankl was originally referenced thoroughly in this chapter but his section didn’t survive the chopping block. But his classic, Man’s Search for Meaning is highly relevant here as well as the next two chapters.
A lot of people have also compared the ideas in this chapter to the stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. While he was not a direct influence, I have read it and there is a lot of overlap between stoicism and the Zen Buddhism that I practiced when I was younger.
Chapter 3: You Are Not Special
The criticism of the self-esteem movement is present in a lot of research. Roy Baumeister is likely the most prominent one. If you don’t want to sift through academic papers, you can see a nice summary of his findings and arguments in this fascinating article.
Jean Twenge has also written extensively about the growing problem of entitlement in our culture and has spearheaded the whole “Generation Me” movement where Millennials are characterized by how self-absorbed they are. Her research is controversial and many disagree with her. But you can read The Narcissism Epidemic to get an idea where she’s coming from. My take is that she’s probably right that the younger generation is more narcissistic today than they were decades ago, but my guess is that older generations are as well. Put bluntly, I think we’re all becoming entitled, narcissistic assholes.
For a look at how a meritocratic society can actually cause us to feel more anxious about how good we are, see Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety.
Chapter 4: The Value of Suffering
Hiroo Onoda wrote of his experiences in his memoir No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War. Dave Mustaine can be seen crying about not selling 100 million records in Metallica’s bizarre and fascinating documentary Some Kind of Monster.
Chapter 5: You Are Always Choosing
The William James story is actually pulled from Charles Duhigg’s great book The Power of Habit. The relevant James work itself though is his famous lecture called The Will to Believe.
The Responsibility/Fault Fallacy is actually mine. As is much of this chapter. It’s probably the most “original” chapter in the whole book in terms of stuff I came to myself. The BBC documentary about the kids with OCD can be found here.
Chapter 6: You Are Wrong About Everything (But So Am I)
The whole idea of “being less wrong” instead of trying to “be right,” comes from the philosopher Karl Popper. If you’re up for a challenge, check out The Logic of Scientific Discovery and prepare to have your mind blown.
The story about the room and the switches comes from a study referenced in Michael Schermer’s The Believing Brain. Funny enough, I dug up the actual study and it actually wasn’t that good of a study. But regardless, I believe the point is true and the story of the girl jumping and hitting the ceiling was too good to not use.
Manson’s Law of Avoidance is actually a concept in social psychology called self-coherence. A friend of mine who is working on his Ph.D. in psychology introduced it to me.
The “Kill Yourself” section and ending of this chapter wrap up with some more Buddhist wisdom. A great book on this idea is the classic I Am That by Nisargadatta Maharaj.
Chapter 7: Failure Is the Way Forward
The first half of this chapter is the same stuff you find in a lot of business success books, just worded differently. Some famous ones are Failing Forward by John Maxwell and Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson.
The latter half of the chapter features my favorite Kazimierz Dabrowski. His work used to be really hard to get a hold of and I struggled years ago to get my hands on his lectures and notes. But now you can get a collection summarizing his theory Positive Disintegration on Amazon. Check it out.
Chapter 8: The Importance of Saying No
I’m going to plug my first book here, Models: Attract Women Through Honesty, because many of the ideas in this chapter were first developed when working on that book.
But also, I must recommend the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It’s all about, you guessed it, boundaries and knowing how to say “no,” and why it’s important. (Warning: Highly religious content, but the advice is still solid.)
I’d also be remiss without mentioning Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly.
Chapter 9: …And Then You Die
The big one here is Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death. Everything else in the chapter is me riffing about life/death.