The Road to Character by David Brooks


The Road to Character by David Brooks

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE ECONOMIST • “I wrote this book not sure I could follow the road to character, but I wanted at least to know what the road looks like and how other people have trodden it.”—David Brooks

With the wisdom, humor, curiosity, and sharp insights that have brought millions of readers to his New York Times column and his previous bestsellers, David Brooks has consistently illuminated our daily lives in surprising and original ways. In The Social Animal, he explored the neuroscience of human connection and how we can flourish together. Now, in The Road to Character, he focuses on the deeper values that should inform our lives. Responding to what he calls the culture of the Big Me, which emphasizes external success, Brooks challenges us, and himself, to rebalance the scales between our “résumé virtues”—achieving wealth, fame, and status—and our “eulogy virtues,” those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, or faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed.

Looking to some of the world’s greatest thinkers and inspiring leaders, Brooks explores how, through internal struggle and a sense of their own limitations, they have built a strong inner character. Labor activist Frances Perkins understood the need to suppress parts of herself so that she could be an instrument in a larger cause. Dwight Eisenhower organized his life not around impulsive self-expression but considered self-restraint. Dorothy Day, a devout Catholic convert and champion of the poor, learned as a young woman the vocabulary of simplicity and surrender. Civil rights pioneers A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin learned reticence and the logic of self-discipline, the need to distrust oneself even while waging a noble crusade.

Blending psychology, politics, spirituality, and confessional, The Road to Character provides an opportunity for us to rethink our priorities, and strive to build rich inner lives marked by humility and moral depth.

“Joy,” David Brooks writes, “is a byproduct experienced by people who are aiming for something else. But it comes.”

Praise for The Road to Character

“A hyper-readable, lucid, often richly detailed human story.”The New York Times Book Review

“David Brooks—the New York Times columnist and PBS commentator whose measured calm gives punditry a good name—offers the building blocks of a meaningful life.”Washingtonian

“This profound and eloquent book is written with moral urgency and philosophical elegance.”—Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree and The Noonday Demon

“The voice of the book is calm, fair and humane. The highlight of the material is the quality of the author’s moral and spiritual judgments.”—The Washington Post

“A powerful, haunting book that works its way beneath your skin.”—The Guardian (U.K.)

“This learned and engaging book brims with pleasures.”Newsday

“Original and eye-opening . . . At his best, Brooks is a normative version of Malcolm Gladwell, culling from a wide array of scientists and thinkers to weave an idea bigger than the sum of its parts.”USA Today

“There is something affecting in the diligence with which Brooks seeks a cure for his self-diagnosed shallowness by plumbing the depths of others.”—Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 09, 2015 – The road to exceptional character may be unpaved and a bit rocky, yet it is still worth the struggle. This is the basic thesis of Brooks's engrossing treatise on personal morality in today's materialistic, proud world. Brooks (The Social Animal) draws on the dichotomy in human nature proposed by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchick in his 1965 essay "The Lonely Man of Faith," which divides humanity between the external, social-based "Adam I," and internal, moral "Adam II." On this basis, he tackles sin, promiscuity, and the "central" vice of pride. He also formulates a "Humility Code" as a pathway to a secular type of holiness. Brooks puts forward exemplary figures who recognized their inner weaknesses and overcame those flaws through love of God, family, country, and vocation. They include governmental figures like Gen. George Marshall and President Dwight Eisenhower; Catholic social worker Dorothy Day; theologian St. Augustine; "humanist" writers George Eliot, Samuel Johnson, and Michel de Montaigne; and civil rights leaders A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin. Brook's poignant and at times quite humorous commentary on the importance of humility and virtue makes for a vital, uplifting read.

Customer Reviews

Not as expected

The intro is great but the rest of the book was not as I expected. I thought it was going to be more of a self help book or a look inside the author's mind. Instead, it is a compilation of short biographies. This book is better suited in the biographies section.

Get closer

In "Just Mercy," civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson explains: "You can't understand the important things from a distance...You have to get close." "The Road to Character" feels as though it were written from a great distance. While the characters' storylines encapsulate the virtues of importance to Brooks, I was left wondering why the book was written now - of what relevance is this to Brooks? There were also some unbearably insulting passages about today's generation's values. And nostalgia for condoms sold behind the counter while cigarrettes up front? countless lives were saved by this change.

Steeped in religion

I bought this book looking for sound guidance/philosophy on improving personal character. Instead what I got was something that reads more like a sermon. It started with the Adam 1/Adam 2 referrences which narrowly attempt to describe 2 types of character within all of us. Brooks really lost me when he began referring to character flaws as “sins”. I do not subscribe to the widely accepted and deeply flawed idea that you need religion in order to have a moral compass. The book seems like a sneaky indoctrination attempt. That being said, I agree with the author on some points… namely that there is a disturbing prevalent attitude of self congratulatory narcissism in our society, and not enough humility. Ultimately a dissapointing read…don’t waste your money.

The Road to Character by David Brooks
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Android, Win, *Nix, and more.
  • Category: Sociology
  • Published: Apr 14, 2015
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 320 Pages
  • Language: English

Customer Ratings

144 Ratings