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It's Great to Suck at Something

The Unexpected Joy of Wiping Out and What It Can Teach Us About Patience, Resilience, and the Stuff that Really Matters

About The Book

Discover how the freedom of sucking at something can help you build resilience, embrace imperfection, and find joy in the pursuit rather than the goal.

What if the secret to resilience and joy is the one thing we’ve been taught to avoid?

When was the last time you tried something new? Something that won’t make you more productive, make you more money, or check anything off your to-do list? Something you’re really, really bad at, but that brought you joy?

Odds are, not recently.

As a sh*tty surfer and all-around-imperfect human Karen Rinaldi explains in this eye-opening book, we live in a time of aspirational psychoses. We humblebrag about how hard we work and we prioritize productivity over play. Even kids don’t play for the sake of playing anymore: they’re building blocks to build the ideal college application. But we’re all being had. We’re told to be the best or nothing at all. We’re trapped in an epic and farcical quest for perfection. We judge others on stuff we can’t even begin to master, and it’s all making us more anxious and depressed than ever. Worse, we’re not improving on what really matters.

This book provides the antidote. (It’s Great to) Suck at Something reveals that the key to a richer, more fulfilling life is finding something to suck at. Drawing on her personal experience sucking at surfing (a sport she’s dedicated nearly two decades of her life to doing without ever coming close to getting good at it) along with philosophy, literature, and the latest science, Rinaldi explores sucking as a lost art we must reclaim for our health and our sanity and helps us find the way to our own riotous suck-ability. She draws from sources as diverse as Anthony Bourdain and surfing luminary Jaimal Yogis, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Jean-Paul Sartre, among many others, and explains the marvelous things that happen to our mammalian brains when we try something new, all to discover what she’s learned firsthand: it is great to suck at something. Sucking at something rewires our brain in positive ways, helps us cultivate grit, and inspires us to find joy in the process, without obsessing about the destination. Ultimately, it gives you freedom: the freedom to suck without caring is revelatory.

Coupling honest, hilarious storytelling with unexpected insights, (It’s Great to) Suck at Something is an invitation to embrace our shortcomings as the very best of who we are and to open ourselves up to adventure, where we may not find what we thought we were looking for, but something way more important.

About The Author

Photograph © Rocco Rinaldi-Rose

Karen Rinaldi has worked in the publishing industry for over two decades. In 2012, she founded the imprint Harper Wave at HarperCollins. The feature film Maggie’s Plan, is based on her novel The End of Men. Karen has been published in The New York Times,, Time, Literary Hub,, and other publications. She lives in New York and New Jersey with her husband and two sons.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (May 7, 2019)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501195785

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Raves and Reviews

“Rinaldi’s book feels more like a movement than just another self-help guide. . . . The book is lighthearted but intimately introspective; the overarching message is empowering without being cheesy.”

– Washington Post

“Show[s] how joy and growth come from risking failure and letting go of perfectionism.”

– Wall Street Journal

“Rinaldi’s remarkable anti self-help book is soulful, smart, and funny. I dare you to step away from this book unmoved to do something sucky with your life. I’m overwhelmed by love for this wholly original work that is destined to become a classic.”

– Susannah Cahalan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire

"To live happy lives, we need to live in an atmosphere of growth—to feel that we’re learning, teaching, helping, or creating. But an atmosphere of growth often means accepting that . . . we suck at something! In this thought-provoking, engaging examination, Karen Rinaldi explains how our lives are more satisfying and rich when we give ourselves the opportunity to experiment, struggle, and play."

– Gretchen Rubin, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project and Outer Order, Inner Calm

"Karen Rinaldi may suck at many things, but writing books is not one of them. Never has there been a more eloquent explanation that true happiness lies in going far, far outside your comfort zone. This fascinating, funny, and important ode to risking failure and being bold has inspired me to suck at many new activities and provides a much-needed screed against the dangers of perfectionism (which is why I’m not even going to proofread this blurb)."

– A.J. Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically and Thanks a Thousand

“A goofy yet wise celebration of taking joy in passions instead of talents. Making ‘a case for discomfort’ and the life-affirming practice of ‘transcending our usefulness,’ [. . .] Rinaldi’s seductive lessons and ‘embrace of messiness and incompleteness’ will inspire readers looking to spark personal change.”

– Publishers Weekly (starred)

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