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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

I used to be a miserable f*ck - an everyman’s guide to a meaningful life by John Kim.

This has to be one of the most intriguing titles to cross my desk in recent years. It certainly garnered my attention. And even as it’s aimed primarily at encouraging men taking ownership of their lives, I think this provocative and entertaining book will ultimately provide salient lessons for both men and women.

The author is a therapist whose profound post-divorce realisation that he was perhaps the author of his own misery, lead to this book. Kim delivers the message with self-deprecating humour as he helps the reader along on their own journey of self-discovery and awareness.

Accordingly, the (second) introductory chapter addresses Self: “We’re not starting with your f*cked- up love life or frustrations with dating, your lop-sided friendships, or the tyre around your waist you just can’t get rid of. We’re not starting with your controlling parents …micro-managing partners, or your new start up that’s going to make you millions…”

When the next chapter #1 Don’t Hide (the first real chapter) arrives, it’s not before an in-between chapter, a sort of nano-chapter, called Self in a Shot Glass for those time-poor souls who like to take their psychology lessons in an expresso format.

By now you’ll have gleaned that I have a slight issue with the format, but nothing too serious. It’s just that I’m down with an introduction, not so good with a second introduction, and then a little confused by the start of the first hashtag chapters glued together by a very short summary.

Initially it pulled me up and I would have preferred clearer delineation and flow. But in no way did this small criticism detract from my overall enjoyment of this book once I understood how it worked, and - more importantly - how it could be used to greater value.

But back to the book. #2 Do Walk with Mirrors encourages introspection. And it comes with Kim’s own reflection (pardon the pun) on his own lack of it. Despite – or perhaps because of – being a professional. This is not an entirely new theme because we’ve all met plenty of people who’ve “done a huge amount of work” on themselves, but who still don’t get it.

I loved #3 Choose Responsibility Over Freedom which deals with doing the right thing in terms of our obligations to others. I love the way Kim builds the case for a freedom where responsibility builds trust which ultimately allows greater freedom. You’ll have to read it for yourself to understand this important theme better.

Along the way, among many other eloquent lessons on becoming a better man, you’ll read how to: Separate who you are from what you do; Get out of your bubble; The benefits of failing; and Not texting like you’re seventeen.

And of course, there’s all the short, succinct takeaways, or distilled messages in summary, along the way. To get the most from this book I would suggest that – in addition to reinforcing the wisdom of each chapter - these could be used as a reference when you return to this book again and again, as I hope you will.

I used to be a miserable f*ck is a great book for women to better understand men, but it’s a brilliant tool for men to better understand themselves.

Reviewer: Peta Stavelli

Allen and Unwin. $32.99


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