The Social Animal by David Brooks


The Social Animal by David Brooks


With unequaled insight and brio, New York Times columnist David Brooks has long explored and explained the way we live. Now Brooks turns to the building blocks of human flourishing in a multilayered, profoundly illuminating work grounded in everyday life. This is the story of how success happens, told through the lives of one composite American couple, Harold and Erica. Drawing on a wealth of current research from numerous disciplines, Brooks takes Harold and Erica from infancy to old age, illustrating a fundamental new understanding of human nature along the way: The unconscious mind, it turns out, is not a dark, vestigial place, but a creative one, where most of the brain’s work gets done. This is the realm where character is formed and where our most important life decisions are made—the natural habitat of The Social Animal. Brooks reveals the deeply social aspect of our minds and exposes the bias in modern culture that overemphasizes rationalism, individualism, and IQ. He demolishes conventional definitions of success and looks toward a culture based on trust and humility. The Social Animal is a moving intellectual adventure, a story of achievement and a defense of progress. It is an essential book for our time—one that will have broad social impact and will change the way we see ourselves and the world.

BONUS: Includes new material.

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 31, 2011 – New York Times columnist Brooks (Bobos in Paradise) raids Malcolm Gladwell's pop psychology turf in a wobbly treatise on brain science, human nature, and public policy. Essentially a satirical novel interleaved with disquisitions on mirror neurons and behavioral economics, the narrative chronicles the life cycle of a fictional couple Harold, a historian working at a think tank, and Erica, a Chinese-Chicana cable-TV executive as a case study of the nonrational roots of social behaviors, from mating and shopping to voting. Their story lets Brooks mock the affluent and trendy while advancing soft neoconservative themes: that genetically ingrained emotions and biases trump reason; that social problems require cultural remedies (charter schools, not welfare payments); that the class divide is about intelligence, deportment, and taste, not money or power. Brooks is an engaging guide to the "cognitive revolution" in psychology, but what he shows us amounts mainly to restating platitudes. (Women like men with money, we learn, while men like women with breasts.) His attempt to inflate recent research on neural mechanisms into a grand worldview yields little except buzz concepts "society is a layering of networks" no more persuasive than the rationalist dogmas he derides.

Customer Reviews

Mr. Brooks

I still don't know how I feel about Mr. Brooks, the man behind the in-your-face Republican Op-Ed column in the New York Times. Being a Democrat, I posses a skewed desire to identify and critique his attempts to use his column to push forth his own political agenda. Being a Democrat, I have an unconscious desire to associate myself with Democrats like Gail Collins and disassociate myself from Republicans like Mr. Brooks. Despite all of these unconscious prejudices, constant desires to shriek "Eureka - I have spotted his political agenda!," and affirm my own biases about Mr. Brooks, I cannot help but admit - no, proclaim:

This book is brilliant.

In a word, it is incredible. In another: Illuminating. Life-changing. Brooks combines the life-defining scientific findings of our era to craft the fictional, science-shaped tale of Harold and Erica from Harold's parents' first date to the end of Harold and Erica's lives. It's all relatable because it's all set in the present tense. Brooks' proves that he can jump from romance to parenting, elite to impoverished, classroom to living room, college to job hopping, work to worldview, leadership to persuasion, politics to people, and even (gulp!) Republicans to Democrats... without a flinch. The all-present construct is brilliant; the depth of exploration is unbiased and intriguing; the point - that we are social animals who must stop socialize to survive - life-changing. Brooks' book has taught me to appreciate the beauty of the unconscious.

Unlike Brooks' Op-Ed columns, The Social Animal doesn't have a political agenda - it just has a life agenda.

This is one of the best books that I have ever read.

Less bark, more bite, please.

There is no arguing that David Brooks has an extensively researched book here. It is both fascinating and insightful, however there are large sections of loooong, verbose story that does nothing but bore and adds no impotant information to the characters or studies. With a machete, I hack through these to find the treasures and relevant information I've been yearning for. Good book, but could be much better with less bark and more bite. Where was the editor?


Another tour de force by Mr. Brooks!

The Social Animal by David Brooks
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Android, Win, *Nix, and more.
  • Category: Sociology
  • Published: Mar 08, 2011
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 448 Pages
  • Language: English

Customer Ratings

556 Ratings