Johnny Bunko — optimistic and iconoclastic career guide in manga form

Daniel Pink, author of many well-regarded business books, wrote his first manga business book, Johnny Bunko, after receiving a fellowship to live in Japan and study manga. Bunko is a quick, funny, and extremely, inspiringly sensible book on career-planning that throws out all the traditional bullshit about getting a straight job to fall back on if your creative gig fails on you. Instead, Bunko makes a convincing case for pursuing your dreams, working to your strengths, throwing out the idea of planning, and persevering rather than relying on talent to make it.

I spent a lot of my life ignoring (with some difficulty), the advice of well-meaning people who wanted me to know that I'd never, ever be able to live on what I made from writing. Instead, I took on a series of careers in fields that hadn't even existed when I was a student, each one bringing me closer to my dream of being a full-time scribbler. If I'd listened to the software aptitude test my high-school guidance counsellor gave me, I'd be a "geriatric nutritionist" (cook in a senior's home) today.

Johnny Bunko is a miserable accounting drone who finds a bundle of magic chopsticks. Every time he separates a pair, a genie emerges to help him navigate his way to career freedom. It's a great little device, and the manga artwork — from the award-winning Rob Ten Pas — is simple and clean and often very funny.

Bunko is a refreshingly frank and optimistic (but clear-eyed) story about the perils of choosing a safe, lucrative and hateful job that you'll never be able to afford to leave, and the joys of failing in interesting ways, learning from your mistakes, and making more of yourself. I wish someone had given me a copy when I was 16 or so, and forced me to re-read it every year until I was in my mid-twenties.


See also: Johnny Bunko Book Trailer