Review: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

MHAW16 logo 300x300Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from May 16th to May 22nd with this year’s theme being relationships. Mental Health is a very important topic on this blog and I hope you’ll join me throughout this week where I’ll be posting every day for Mental Health Awareness Week.

Have you ever had a book on your to-read shelf for absolute yonks, and you’ve really been wanting to read it but just never got round to it? And then one day you finally decide today’s the day and pick it up, only to realize it had been fate calling you this particular day, because you were meant to read this now. At this particular time of your life, on this exact Sunday when you’ve actually got the time to devour at least half of it on your day off. That’s how I felt about The Art of Asking, and what I think that people of my generation or in similar circumstances to mine will also feel if they were to pick it up.

In this blend of autobiography, social commentary and self-help book, Amanda Palmer achieves a lot in only a small amount of pages. She not only tells us stories about her life and self (making me adore her in the process), but makes acute and poignant observations about our society and her most favourite part of it: people. The most remarkable thing is that she does all of this while making it all feel like she’s taken me out to coffee and we’re having a wonderful afternoon chat, having a fabulous time of it too.

I didn’t think Amanda Palmer would be a tremendously good writer, if I’m honest. She’s an alternative rock star, her husband Neil Gaiman is the wordsmith (and their romance is so adorably portrayed in the book, by the way). And if I’m even more honest, I didn’t know if she’d have a hell of a lot to say. I’d seen her TED talk of the same name, and though I found it excellent I didn’t think she’d have anything more to add to that. I think we all know where I’m going with this: it’s time for a Hobbit gif.


Amanda Palmer is a very honest and vibrant person, and her life is so incredibly interesting to learn about. From her years as a street performer, to a couch-surfing young rock star, and then on to TED-talking Amanda Palmer and record-breaking crowdfunding legend, it’s all so immensely readable. On the surface, I loved reading in detail about Amanda’s choice not to dedicate her life to “a real job” and focus her energies on art in various forms. Every aspect of this decision is explored in this book, and I think any artist would appreciate reading about her experiences in this area. Her struggles, her triumphs, lessons and judgement. Most of all her feelings, from others, towards others, and all around herself. She creates a mosaic about this life path, one that so many are trying of have tried to take, and shows us that it can be achieved, can sometimes go wrong, can not be everything you thought it could be, and can bloom from unexpected sources.

“There’s no “correct path” to becoming a real artist. You might think you’ll gain legitimacy by going to art school, getting published, getting signed to a record label. But it’s all bullshit, and it’s all in your head. You’re an artist when you say you are.”

But most of all I loved that she felt like a voice of my generation, even though she’s older than me. Her philosophies, career life and ways of living are still considered new in this society, but Amanda Palmer is solid proof that a more “millennial” way of considering the world can be a very good thing.

And then, at the crux of it all, we have the Asking: the central point of this book. It may seem such a simple concept to write about, but Amanda Palmer beautifully shows us just how multi-faceted it really is. She shows us how Asking is in everything we do each day, is in every relationship we have with ourselves and those around us. And how, if you think about it, it is the core principle of everything we do in life, everything we want and love and depend on.
Throughout the book I found myself comparing her lessons with everything. I could see how I could apply these philosophies to every aspect of my life: career, family, friends, relationship, self-esteem, mental health. This book was like a crash course on fundamental self-awareness and I loved every minute. Amanda Palmer was my preacher and I was screeching HALLELUJAH to my bedroom ceiling.

“From what I’ve seen, it isn’t so much the act of asking that paralyzes us – it’s what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one. It points, fundamentally, to our separation from one another.”

I wanted to post this review during Mental Health Awareness Week because it contains the most uniquely relevant and expert advice on mental self-care for not only those of my generation, but anyone who considers their philosophies and ways of viewing the world to be somewhat outside of what many still call “the norm”. I don’t want to go into too much detail about Amanda Palmer’s core ideas here, because I recommend this book to every living person and I want you to discover and enjoy this book for yourself. But I do want to leave you with two important thoughts:

There is never any harm in Asking. And for the love of God, take the fucking doughnuts.


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