Recent Reading: Please Unsubscribe, Thanks! and The Good Enough Job

In this period I’m in currently, “figuring out what’s next”, I’ve been hitting the library more often and doing more reading. Two recent library pickups were Please Unsubscribe, Thanks! by Julio Vincent Gambuto and The Good Enough Job: Reclaiming Life from Work by Simone Stolzoff.

They fall into a genre that has picked up since COVID, the “why the fuck are we doing (gestures broadly) this?!” genre. Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman and Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen fall into this category (both are referenced by these two books), as well as How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell, a standout from pre-COVID times. There’s variations of this genre with more specific focuses, like viewing the modern world and it’s problems through the lens of Stoicism, but I tend to avoid those, as many years of Latin class has already informed me that in modern times Marcus Aurelius would have a depressing blog no one reads and Diogenes would be on 4chan all day.

Between these two books, if I was going to recommend one, it would be Please Unsubscribe, Thanks! Gambuto’s writing is as a delight. Two excerpts I particularly enjoyed while reading it:

What happened to the promise of the twentieth century? This is where it was all headed? Here? We worked tirelessly to become the most powerful nation in the history of the world so 2 percent of us could have trust funds and the rest could work round-the-clock? We won world wars and stormed the beaches of Normandy so we could gift the world Facetune? So we could stare blankly at the refrigerator at Whole Foods parsing the difference between cage-free, free-range, pasture-raised, farm-raised, and omega-3-vitamin-enhanced eggs? I just want an egg! An egg! We all just want fucking eggs! There are three hundred shootings a month in Chicago, and 38 million people live below the poverty line in this country, and were asking voice-controlled Al assistants what types of eggs are the best? We have lost our minds.


Sure, I have all day Saturday to sit on this phone so we can somehow find the one person in your mangled corporate org chart who has the power to reverse the double charge on my Visa for an umbrella I bought in the rain because the old one was so incredibly shitty that it fell apart in my hands the first time it encountered water. Bullshit is not even having a customer service phone number. Click here to text with Emma, our Al chatbot who can read real, actual human words and respond with utterly unrelated nonsense, like she was programmed by a Shih Tzu. Don’t worry. She learns on her own. In two years, shell be able to charge your Visa whenever you even think about umbrellas or rain or Shih Tzus.

Related, something I read this morning: Klarna AI assistant handles two-thirds of customer service chats in its first month. But, the book is not entirely about how bad AI bots are (although I would read such a book). The central premise is if you treat everything in your life like a subscription to your time, what things are you subscribed to that take away more than they add. His suggestion to figuring this out is to turn everything off “autopilot” and look deeply at where your money, time, and attention are going to. The conceit of referring to everything in life as a subscription works because in a Capitalist society, well, everything can be tied back to consuming things:

Monbiot admits, “I’m not saying the small things don’t matter. I’m saying they should not matter to the exclusion of things that matter more. Every little bit counts. But not for very much.” Monbiot goes on to explain that “the great political transition of the past fifty years, driven by corporate marketing, has been a shift from addressing our problems collectively to addressing them individually. In other words, it has turned us from citizens into consumers. It’s not hard to see why we have been herded down this path. As citizens, joining together to demand political change, we are powerful. As consumers, we are almost powerless.”

(Monbiot here being George Monbiot).

The Good Enough Job: Reclaiming Life from Work covers one small slice of what Please Unsubscribe, Thanks! covers, essentially overcommitment (or oversubscription?) to work. It’s a quick read, and fine, but it’s a book I think would have been better in a blog format. While the stories Stolzoff chose to write about are somewhat interesting, he doesn’t tie them together well, and I feel like more breadth in examples would have gotten to a more interesting point than the ones in the book do, which more or less boil down to “I was considered successful and then I decided to consider myself successful instead of applying society’s meaning of success to myself”, which sometimes feels a bit hollow when it’s someone with a lot of money who goes off to be successful in something that just has more meaning to them. I guess good for them.


Here’s the short story of many books in this genre:

  • People around the world (but primarily focusing on Americans) have moved away from religions and social groups as the primary drivers for meaning in their lives.
  • In the absence of the above, it’s up to the individual to find meaning in their lives. In the absence of social safety nets provided by the above, it’s also up to the individual to support themselves.
  • Both sides of capitalism seek to fulfill the individuals needs, in terms of supporting them (your job gives you money, meaning, health care, a family?), and fulfilling them (ohh new shiny!).
  • The Internet connected era has not actually improved the individuals ability to find meaning or security, but instead given corporations unprecedented leverage and scale to make us feel less connected and more desirous of things to fill the emptiness in our lives.

So how do you fix it? Well that’s up to you, the individual, to figure out! If you need some background music while figuring it out, I suggest this:

Tagged: book notes