Book Review: The Art Of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau




My overall feelings about this book are very mixed. One one hand, I love the concept of promoting living a chosen life and not an expected one. The term “non-conformity” is a bit misused in my opinion. You don’t have to be a non-conformist to be happy and fulfilled. Some people like having what I would loosely call a “normal” life, and there is nothing at all wrong with that. The point is, in my opinion, to live the life YOU want and choose for yourself instead of bowing to what society, family or other people in general pressure you to do. The book makes it’s mark more as a hoorah kind of pep talk than it does a how-to book. There is really no how-to information in this book, which I found disappointing. As someone who is already living the life I want and has done the expat hop-around-the-world thing, nothing in this book was new to me. Someone who is considering taking on a drastic change in lifestyle might benefit from the hoorah pep talk but it won’t help that reader figure out HOW to make that life change.

     The overall problem is that the concept itself is a vague one. Is this a book about moving “overseas”? No. Is it a book about quitting your corporate soul sucking job to take on the job you really love? No. Is it about volunteering? No. Is it about travel? Sort of, but not specifically. Since everyone has a different idea what what a great life would be like, this book cannot and does not delve into any real info or solutions about any of those ideas. It vaguely (VERY vaguely) touches upon the ideas in a “Hey, you could be doing what you love!” but then drops the ball after establishing that very basic concept. The book really is a vague overview of what should be three different books. The author spends most of the book’s volume writing about his own experiences, which are admittedly impressive, but not what most people (even expat, crazy life people like me) would consider achievable. Not everyone can make their living blogging and not everyone can chuck their life completely and live on a boat in West Africa trying to “change the world.” I don’t think that most people (even the volunteer minded ones) even want to do that. I think most people are not really built for that and most people would become part of the problem more than the solution. It kind of reminds me of when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast of the US and a gaggle of eager (but unskilled) do-gooders were trying to get into New Orleans to “help” and prove their charitable heroism when in reality serious aid workers like the Red Cross were far more bothered by these people than helped. Basically, if you are not a pro that can offer some serious assistance in crisis zones, STAY OUT and do your part by donating money, blood, etc. But I am going on a tangent now- sorry. This book is very gung-ho about “changing the world” but that should be a separate book and even then the information offered is anecdotal and vague. The book suffers from not really knowing what it wants to be.

I also have a little bit of an issue with the condescending tone the author has. I have a feeling he did not expect it to come off that way. I like the author. His enthusiasm is infectious. His sense of adventure is exciting. What I don’t like is the “I’ve traveled to EVERY country” kind of gimmick he has going. I personally don’t think that is all that admirable. He simply touts that he has done so, but gives no narrative about his experiences or how doing so might have enriched him or others. So again, what is this book? Who is it for? I am not sure and so I have marked it in my mind as a simple hoorah pep talk that has about five pages of actual information in it – the rest is fluff.

My rating:

2 out of 5 stars (my Goodreads review)





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