On Being Awesome: A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck

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“What is the opposite of an asshole?  It’s the ‘awesome’ person who goes off script in the usual interactions, creating new opportunities for creative expression and social communion. Nick Riggle’s fun book is ‘awesome’ by its own definition. But don’t miss its profound ambition, which is to show how philosophy unearths the structure of ordinary language, defines the meaning of life in routine business, and poses the question of how best to live.”
—Aaron James, author of Assholes: A Theory

“It’s…hard to imagine that anyone else has thought so deeply about the nature of awesomeness: its meaning, its importance, and the ways that true awesomeness is under threat. In On Being Awesome, Riggle offers a careful dissection of the psycho-philosophical categories of sucking…but the book also works as a practical, and surprisingly inspiring, guide to better living.”
Scientific American Mind

“"Nick Riggle quickly and convincingly makes the case for the pursuit of awesomeness (and the avoidance of suckiness, its mortal enemy) as a legitimate social aim...In a pluralistic world that fractures further by the minute, being awesome might be the only viable model for the future of our society.”
Flood Magazine

"Riggle’s book is a welcome addition to the trend of philosophy pitched to the public. Like Aaron James’s Assholes: A Theory and Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit, Riggle’s On Being Awesome shows the promise of employing the tools of analytic philosophy to address the nuances of contemporary culture. The book on the whole is written in a clear, vernacular style that’s accessible to a general audience, but at the same time it doesn’t pull its philosophical punches. It’s also loaded with thought-provoking examples drawn from pop culture, civic life, sports, and the arts. More significantly, Riggle aims to craft the very sort of social opening that his book describes. In creating a rich theory of awesomeness, Riggle invites us to play along by adopting his lingo – “wack”, “chill”, and “squad” – but more importantly by looking at our lives as opportunities to do awesome things. The only question that remains is whether, you, the reader, are down. In short, it’s an awesome book – and, upon reading it, you’ll know exactly what that means."
The Philosophers' Magazine

"Nick Riggle's new book is a roadmap to achieving awesomeness." 
—Entrepreneur

"Want to bring a little awesomeness into your life? Check out Dr. Riggle's hilariously insightful book." 
Curiosity.com

“A deceptively fun-loving tour of philosophy’s most ancient question: how best to live. Riggle uses modern jargon to apply timeless philosophical truths to today’s problems.”
Success Magazine

"...[M]ight be the most entertaining study of linguistics taxonomy in philosophy."
BigThink

Interview with Scientific American

It’s pretty safe to say that Nick Riggle is the only former professional skater who also holds a Ph.D. from New York University’s prestigious philosophy program. It’s also hard to imagine that anyone else has thought so deeply about the nature of awesomeness: its meaning, its importance, and the ways that true awesomeness is under threat. In “On Being Awesome,” Riggle offers a careful dissection of the psycho-philosophical categories of sucking (“killjoy” is fundamentally different from “sucky”). But the book also works as a practical, and surprisingly inspiring, guide to better living. He answered questions from Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.

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On Being Awesome in Flood Magazine No. 7

"Nick Riggle quickly and convincingly makes the case for the pursuit of awesomeness (and the avoidance of suckiness, its mortal enemy) as a legitimate social aim...In a pluralistic world that fractures further by the minute, being awesome might be the only viable model for the future of our society.”

Nick Riggle explains how to find awesomeness in the world. (Yes, Mr. Rogers has a cameo.)
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On Being Awesome covered in Entrepreneur

10 Quotes to Help You Not Suck and Be Awesome, According to an Awesomeness Expert. Nick Riggle's new book is a roadmap to achieving awesomeness.

BigThink covers On Being Awesome

"...might be the most entertaining study of linguistics taxonomy in philosophy."

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On the Difference between "Awesome" and "Cool"

"...When we look at awesomeness and coolness in this way, they seem to be social opposites. But a look into our past reveals a striking fact: the origins of awesome lie in the cultural history of cool."

Note on Acknowledgments

Unfortunately, an oversight led to a misprinting of my acknowledgments. They are correct in the audio book, e-book, and future printings. Here they are in full:

Writing this book provided many social openings. Whenever I brought it up—at a party, a dinner, with academic friends—people responded with ideas, examples, insights, and enthusiasm. Thanks to the many friends, colleagues, and copeeps who helped me along. Special thanks to Ross Andersen, Sinan Dogramaci, Daniel Fogal, Ben Jahn, Ed Lake, Stan Parish, Laurie Paul, Jeff Sebo, Erin Thompson, and Clinton Tolley.

Thanks to Amanda Jaquin for helping me design the diagram of awesomeness and suckiness. Her graphic style makes it sing.

Thanks so much to Sara Bershtel, who read a very early draft and introduced me to Mel Flashman. This book would not exist without Mel, who is far more awesome than she thinks.

I’m so lucky that Meg Leder was enthusiastically down to work on this book with me. Her editorial insight and support, along with Shannon Kelly, vastly improved the book. Thanks to the rest of the Penguin Books team for all of their help.

Around the time that I started thinking through these ideas, Aaron James was visiting NYU, where I was lecturing. I asked him if he’d have lunch with me so I could tell him about my nascent project. He agreed and we talked for a solid two hours. Since then he’s been an awesome mentor. Thanks to Aaron for his early encouragement and guidance.

This book was inspired by the many awesome acts and agents in the world—these people give me hope and help me motivate and focus my own efforts to be loving and good. And while I detail several of these people in the book, there’s one who I mention only briefly but whose influence and example is present on nearly every page. That’s my wife Brett Riggle.

Philosophy is a serious activity and it can be really difficult, frustrating, even dispiriting. When it goes well, it can be illuminating, mind-opening, even sublime. But it can also be seriously fun. It can engage us in an attempt to understand our lives together, in a way that brings us together. I’d be happy if this book did little more than remind us of that.