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Hello, I'm Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity

3.23  ·  Rating Details ·  239 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
"Hal Niedzviecki is one of the wisest, funniest and most acute cultural critics writing today."—Naomi Klein, author of No Logo

Hal Niedzviecki has a blunt message for the army of tattoo and piercing enthusiasts, bloggers, skateboard warriors, and anyone else walking around with the smug certainty that they are one of a kind: Individuality is the new conformity.

Paperback, 278 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by City Lights Publishers (first published 1998)
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Jul 02, 2007 Erika rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: self-important pompous asshats
This review is hella long because I wrote it for Amazon:

Hal Niedzviecki is the guy who bums a ride with you and then criticizes the way you drive, tells you when to turn, and tells you where to park. He is the guy who walks into your kitchen and asks to be shown what you are cooking, and then makes unhelpful suggestions as to how to improve your recipe. He's the guy who crashes your party and makes snide comments about your taste in music, and how he was into it 'before they went all mainstream
John McDonald
Dec 26, 2008 John McDonald rated it did not like it
Can you give negative stars? Deeply cynical, arrogant, incurious, unoriginal, what was an interesting premise is marred by the writer's complete inability to engage with anyone or anything outside of his own mind. Entire chapters are reasoned back from his conclusion, contrary evidence is ignored, and strawmen are set up and knocked down with the efficiency a Fox News commentator would be impressed by, all of it wrapped in a masturbatory and defensive prose style. This book joins a short list of ...more
May 28, 2009 Miri rated it liked it
A great book that would be much better but for the fact that, near the end, the author begins essentially going on tirades against capitalism, globalization, and other things that have done much, MUCH more good than bad in the world.

That was annoying.

For once, I'd like to read about culture and society without getting liberal/socialist bullshit thrown in with the bargain.

Also, frankly, I can't relate to any of the people he talks about--the ones who stand in a parking lot for hours to audition f
Mary Fons
Feb 21, 2008 Mary Fons rated it really liked it
Shelves: finito
I nearly bailed on this book early in the first chapter because Niedzviecki seemed like a real whiner. Thankfully, I stuck with it. I learned a lot from "Hello, I'm Special" and it, along with several other books I've read lately, have thrown me into a bit of a crisis.

It's true: individuality is the new conformity. There are very few avenues for a rebel to choose if he/she wants to make waves. The waves are sold as quick as they appear. There's nothing new under the sun and, once there is, it's
Michael Boeke
Oct 21, 2010 Michael Boeke rated it did not like it
Ugh. This was the first book I've read in a while that really disappointed. I expected some insight into why people all want to be different in the same why do all the hipsters wear the same glasses? Unfortunately, the author makes the entire book about how everyone wants to be a pop star. His premise is wrong, and as a semi-famous author he just comes off as self-loathing. Additionally, he is a Canadian writer and tries to use the inclusive "North America" wherever he can, which ends ...more
Oct 04, 2009 Mars rated it it was ok
Hal Niedzviecki sounds like a whiny, unhappy man who hates everyone and everything. In "Hello, I'm Special", his tendency to generalize, some of the examples he chose, and his cynical, angry approach (softened only in the last couple of chapters) to the theme of individualism make this reading often unpleasant. However, some of his observations definitely resonate with my own experience and have helped me make sense of many things I'm seeing.

Aug 13, 2007 Lisa-piece-a-pie rated it it was ok
The premise of this book was more enticing to me than bananas foster, and boy do I LOVE bananas foster.

Anyway, though there are many truths in what the author is saying, his structure was so sporadic and self-serving that I had a hard time absorbing his point. The end of the book is inconclusive, which negates his whole purpose for writing it.

Still, an interesting read, but I recommend not buying it. In fact, you can have my copy.
Sep 19, 2008 Cynthia rated it liked it
Finally someone wrote a book about this.
Aug 06, 2010 Jafar rated it it was ok
“Hal Niedzviecki has a blunt message for the army of tattoo and piercing enthusiasts, bloggers, skateboard warriors, and anyone else walking around with the smug certainty that they are one of a kind: Individuality is the new conformity.” That sounded very interesting to me. Unfortunately I have to add the following sentence to the cover blurb: Hal Niedzviecki is a writer who picks a good idea for a book, but can’t write it.

The only good part in this book is the introduction where the author int
Aron Newberry
Mar 24, 2013 Aron Newberry rated it did not like it
*****Disclaimer!*****DON'T READ THIS IF YOU ARE DEPRESSED!!!!!!! ZERO STARS*************************
As I get older I appreciate the art of subtlety, the ability to politely, not mention things that are perfectly obvious to anyone capable of abstract thought. I am disappointed that American culture has deteriorated such that a publisher would actually print this book. Growing up, we are given adages to live by. Our parents preach things like “sticks and stones…”, “do unto others…”, and the often
Michael Bennett
Apr 25, 2011 Michael Bennett rated it it was ok
Nothing really revelatory in this book. This book probably in my college days would have caused more of a stir because it generally scratched the surface of many points and ideas I had learned. More or less, I started to second guess some of my own personal life choices, but realized that I did everything with my free will, I still actively seek out things to incorporate into my life on my on terms of both myself, my family, and community. I pick battles like everyone else and I keep myself more ...more
Apr 18, 2008 MM rated it it was ok
Certainly we're in a culture of heightened individualism facilitated by consumer culture: customized this, special-order that, niche media, reality celebs, and so forth. And as a journalist Niedzviecki makes some apt points and observations about this cultural context. But in addition to overlooking some important historical precursors and trends, theoretically what this book needs is a more serious consideration of power and politics. Underlining some of the snarky observations about the masses ...more
Feb 25, 2010 Bryan rated it it was amazing
I'm about halfway through this book and was immediately struck by how his style of thinking mirrors my own in a very eerie way. However, the major difference between him and I: I have done zero research into this topic.

I do think that we live in a very egocentric country that places comfort and self love - no, aggrandizement - as a top priority in life. I believe this affects not only adults, but has created a new generation of children who want to be regarded as Gods.

This has contributed to m
Jul 30, 2009 Qu rated it really liked it
Shelves: anthropology
93 - […] preying on the naïve and hopeful has always been part of the pop legacy
117 – The pop system depends on shutting us out
118 – In real life, we pay the corporation to give us the feeling of defying their-our-world.
139 –
155 – The practise of exorcism in contemporary America is remarkably well suited to the therapeutic ethos of the prevailing culture. […]Exorcism is oddly at home in the shopping mall culture, purchase of happiness culture, of turn-of-the-century America.
186 – Implanted fanta
Katie Pesznecker
Dec 15, 2013 Katie Pesznecker rated it liked it
Big topic tackled in this book, which broadly argues that individuality is the new conformity. A bit wandering at times but I owe that to the nebulous nature of the topic and not author error. Definitely thought-provoking and an intense look at what our social structures, pop culture and the "culture of celebrity" do in terms of driving people to define their own specialness and be seen as something unique. An interesting read.
Jan 20, 2014 Wysteria rated it it was ok
Everything you like is horrible because everything you like everyone else likes. You are the mass media greatest dream, and even though you think you are an "individual" you are not. -- pretty much the gist of this book so far. And way too much focus on celebrity and stardom. As if that's the only thing people aspire to anymore. This guy is full of himself and his alternative hipster, I'm cooler than you because I'm different attitude, is gross.
Claudia Turner
Mar 01, 2010 Claudia Turner rated it liked it
I almost gave it 2 stars because even though the issues raised are interesting and having been mulling around in my head for awhile, blargh!...the author writes with an uninspired, high-strung and elementary style that ruins the potential messages that could be addressed by someone with more thoughtfulness and dare I say a special writing style to express otherwise valid points. Ultimately lots of arrogance with limited insight.
Jul 20, 2007 Molly rated it liked it
This book seemed like redundant, "I've figured everything out, and you haven't" tripe. Maybe having grown up in metropolitan areas my entire life I fail to realize that everyone around me may have this complex of having to be special to fit in...Mr.Niedzvecki, two stars for making this jaded urbanite take some time to reflect.
Jun 01, 2008 Cara rated it it was ok
Seemed rather redundant. Talked a lot around points, but never really came out and said anything productive. Hal's favorite word is apparently "ersatz" as he uses it in almost every chapter I think, in several cases where it is not the best word for the sentence. Another one of those books where I jived with the premise, but the execution of the text fell short.
Ed David
Mar 04, 2007 Ed David rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: other friends
Shelves: completed
Great read - a little too simplistic in theory but trying to understand current climate of North American thought/ideas. Main theory is that we all have been raised to think we are special and this ultimately compliments the insanity of our consumerist culture - I mean that's a pretty simple explanation but anyway the book gets the juices moving.
Dec 27, 2007 Hannah rated it really liked it
When I read this book it blew my mind. Granted, it's a little pedestrian, but it was one of those "he's saying what I'm thinking" moments for me. The book is about American society's focus on the individual in the face of globalization, and how that has affected our sense of community and self. Very interesting.
emmy ganos
May 03, 2007 emmy ganos rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
right after i graduated i started missing my sociology reading, and this book helped quench that craving. not overly academic, this book explores the concept of conformity in a way that is unique to the children of boomers.
Nov 02, 2010 Frances rated it it was ok
Shelves: sociology, canadian
"The time has come to recognize just how much of what we have considered genuine non-conformity or rebellion over the past hundred years or so has really been ersatz articulation of Special conforming to the norms of ersatz individualism." I thought that was pretty damning.
May 21, 2007 Eric rated it it was ok
Decent...I suppose my expectations were higher than the book came out to be. I felt like Niedzviecki said the same thing a thousand times with a hundred different examples. Good points, however; it's a good observation about our current culture of individuality.
Feb 28, 2008 Natasha rated it really liked it
Interesting commentary on what constitutes a rebel when previously rebellious actions are now considered the norm. Makes you think about why you do the things you do, and who else does the same thing.
Nick Val
May 07, 2012 Nick Val rated it it was amazing
Every high school kid should read this
Cansu Arslan
Jul 23, 2013 Cansu Arslan rated it it was ok
It kind of book of personality development. But it little bit difficult. Therefore, it is more preferable book than classical the books of the personality development.
Nick Wallace
Feb 26, 2009 Nick Wallace rated it really liked it
I.e. you're not special. The rating only dips due to somebody taking it upon themself to point that out to people who probably think the book isn't talking about them.
Jun 28, 2007 Tera rated it did not like it
I found too many contradictions and dead ends. I was expecting something more Alain de Botton-ish but instead felt I was just reading someone's long blog entry.
Oct 17, 2007 Jenava rated it it was ok
Shelves: didntfinish
interesting points, but couldn't finish it. it lost appeal after it got too repetitive.
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Hal Niedzviecki is a writer, culture commentator and editor whose work challenges
preconceptions and confronts readers with the offenses of everyday life. Hal works in both the fiction and nonfiction genres. He is the author
of books including, in fiction, the novel Ditch, and his latest novel The Program. In nonfiction, his most recent work is The Peep Diaries: How We're Learning To Love Watching O
More about Hal Niedzviecki...

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