Book review: Assholes: A Theory by Aaron James (9780385535656) e-book

This is a tongue and cheek philosophical theory of what makes someone an asshole.  James comes up with irritating traits of assholes such as “not hearing someone out” and “reflecting ignorance of crucial facts or lack of concern with what is reasonably acceptable from everyone’s point of view and actively reasoning from his sense of entitlement rather than from an independent understanding of what the moral law requires”.  After defining an asshole he creates categories such as the Boorish Asshole, the Royal Royal Asshole, the Presidential Asshole, the Corporate Asshole and the Asshole Boss to name a few which he considers the group that “shares a thick sense of moral entitlement”.  And then he talks about a newer style of assholes where “the rationalizations are becoming ever thinner” such as The Cable News Asshole and  the Delusional Asshole Banker.   Of course, he has well known names to back up his categories, but I won’t post them here in case other assholes come out of the woodwork and want to give me their thoughts on my review.

Mr. James has many footnotes with several  references to The New York Times, CNN and many books either written by or about the assholes themselves.  His general advice to people that come across an asshole is resignation that “assholes are a given fact of life” and that resistance is futile because “no amount of angry protest will get a true asshole to listen”.  Perhaps the most amusing part of this book is James’ “Letter to an Asshole” written in the spirit of Horace’s epistles.

Despite reading the word asshole so many times in this book, I found this to be an enjoyable read.  It will make me think philosophically about the kind of asshole I am listening to and resign myself to the idea that he will probably never change.

Thank you to Mr. James, Doubleday Publishing, and Net Galley for giving me the opportunity to review this book.

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