#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • David Brooks challenges us to rebalance the scales between the focus on external success—“résumé virtues”—and our core principles.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE ECONOMIST
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.
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
“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
“A powerful, haunting book that works its way beneath your skin.”—The Guardian
“Original and eye-opening . . . 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
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 ReviewsSee All
The Road to Character
A comprehensive treatment of an important characteristics.
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.
D. Brooks Makes America Humble Again