Book Review: Your Life Isn't For You: A Selfish Person's Guide to Being Selfless by Seth Adam Smith

In this book, Seth Adam Smith expands on the philosophy behind his extraordinarily popular blog post “Marriage Isn’t for You”—which received over 30 million hits and has been translated into over twenty languages—and shares how living for others can enrich every aspect of your life, just as it has his. With a mix of humor, candor, and compassion, he reveals how, years before his marriage, his self-obsession led to a downward spiral of addiction and depression, culminating in a suicide attempt at the age of twenty. Reflecting on the love and support he experienced in the aftermath, as well as on the lessons he learned from a difficult missionary stint in Russia, his time as a youth leader in the Arizona desert, his marriage, and even a story his father read to him as a child, he shares his deep conviction that the only way you can find your life is to give it away to others.
Release Date: September 10, 2014
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher
Reviewed By: Kelli
I liked Your Life Isn't For You from the very first paragraph, and that feeling continued for the entire book.  This book was moving and very inspirational.

Smith writes with a conversational style, one that's both easy and fun to read.  He starts off the book with some background on the "isn't for you" concept.  He wrote a blog post, titled "Your Marriage Isn't For You," in November 2013.  That post ended up going viral.  In his post (read it here) he talks about how his father gave him some life-changing advice.  Seth was getting ready to marry his long-time friend and love, Kim, and was questioning if he was making the right choice.  His dad told him that "you don't marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy." (quote taken from Seth's blog post).  This sage advice resonated with people as it spread around the internet; as of spring 2014, his post has had over 30 million hits.  Take a moment to read it, if you haven't already.  It's great advice for anyone, regardless if you're married or not.

Seth expounds on the advice he received from his father in Your Life Isn't For You.  Not only is marriage not about you, but your very life isn't about you either.  It's about your family, the people who love you, your friends, and the people you are put here to serve.  Seth learns this lesson the hard way, and shares his knowledge with the reader in an accessible, relatable way.

There are many personal revelations in this book, which served for me to understand Seth better.  But, the fact that he was so open about his past and his struggle with depression and attempted suicide made me really sit up and pay attention to what he had to say.  I too, struggle with depression, and while I've never been suicidal, I certainly understand what it feels like to be depressed and hopeless.  Seth's journey from attempted suicide to happiness was inspiring.  He shares the words of wisdom, advice, and thoughts that helped him along the way. 

Seth could have easily made Your Life Isn't For You into a 'preachy' type of book.  Instead, he imbues his book with sarcasm and self-deprecating humor.  This humor is evident in his footnotes, which really made me love the book even more.  The footnotes are what made me smile through some of the sad parts of the story, and kept the book feeling light in spite of the heavy subject matter.

Seth starts each chapter with a quote----I absolutely love it when authors do this.  The quotes set the tone for the chapters and bestow an air of gravitas to the book.  Your Life Isn't For You is a moving read---I found myself tearing up more than once while reading.

I really loved Your Life Isn't For You.  I found it to be surprisingly inspiring and moving for such a fast read.  I finished the book glad that I read it and motivated to make some changes in my own life.  And really, what more can you ask for from a nonfiction book: than to be galvanized to change?


  1. This sounds like a very interesting book!

    1. It really was, Ann! I think you'd love it.

  2. What a wonderful, thoughtful review! Thank you SO much for taking the time to read my book and write your response. Truly, I'm very touched by this. Thank you. You've gained a new Facebook follower and fan!

    1. Oh, wow! Thank you so much! I've saved the email notification that contains your comment because it was such a nice one. It's so nice to get a heartfelt thank you! Your book has stayed with me for months. I gifted my copy to a dear friend because I wanted her to be as inspired as I was by your words.


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