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The Road to Character Audiobook

The Road to Character

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Publisher's Summary

"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 best sellers, 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, faithfulness, and relationships.

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 strong inner character. Labor activist Frances Perkins understood the need to suppress parts of herself so 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.

©2015 David Brooks (P)2015 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"Brooks himself delivers the introduction, clearly and engagingly explaining how a career as a pundit, often rewarded for shallow cleverness, has made him yearn for more depth and significance. But how to achieve it? As read by Arthur Morey with lovely pacing and an interested inflection, he finds that one looks to those who have gone before." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Amazon Customer 05-25-15
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    "Rich, textured stories"

    After the introduction I regretted buying the book. I'm glad I gave it a second chance and continued. The structure is anecdotal, which I ordinarily find too superficial, but his stories are rich. They will stay with you long after putting the book down. The complex characters are described in the context of their time. It reads like real life: The characters are flawed; The values of their time have fallen out of favor. The stories are well-researched and honestly portrayed.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 07-24-15
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 07-24-15 Member Since 2015

    Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.

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    "ADAM ONE & TWO"

    Though David Brooks only refers to Adam one and two (a nod to biblical creation), he is arguing “The Road to Character” is formed by two forces of nature in both men and women. The forces of nature are classified here as “Adam and Eve one”, characterized by logic, and rationality, and “Adam and Eve two”, characterized by spirit, sex-drive, instinct, and emotion.

    As many know, this is not a new revelation. However, Brooks does a masterful job of recalling several interesting historical figures that are the gravel base and pavement for his “…Road to Character” argument. Because Brooks turns to the past, there is inference, and some suggestion, that the present and future are threatened by an imbalance between the two forces; with a result that implies a diminished character in modern times. One may disagree with that inference and still be entertained and enlightened by Brooks’ historical vignettes of accomplished men and women.

    Brooks goes on to give thumb nail histories of Frances Perkins, Dwight Eisenhower, George Marshall, Bayard Rustin, Mary Ann Eliot (aka George Eliot), Samuel Johnson, and others. In each vignette, Brooks outlines a struggle between “Adam and Eve one” and “Adam and Eve two” views of the world. The stories are about the agony felt by human beings struggling with logic and rationality, and its conflicts with spirit, sex drive, instinct, and emotion.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Tucker Powhatan, VA United States 06-04-15
    Jim Tucker Powhatan, VA United States 06-04-15 Member Since 2014

    Jim Tucker

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    "A Road to Our True Self"
    What made the experience of listening to The Road to Character the most enjoyable?

    Stories are what will always inspire us to change and this book is like all of the good books which influence us and help us to change to that person we were before we built an ego that locked us away. Starting with Adam One and Adam Two connected me because of my reading of "The Immortal Diamond" by Fr. Richard Rohr where I became acquainted with my True Self and the importance of reclaiming it.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Augustine will always be my favorite just as Paul is my favorite character in the Bible. Both had to fail miserably at trying to control their lives before they learned how to ask for help and allow God to direct them to a happier and more fulfilled life. C.S. Lewis calls pain God's megaphone and Augustine is the poster child for this wisdom.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Augustine's father when he embarrassed him in front of his friends. It was a cruel and thoughtless act that scarred him and drove him to his life of always wanting to "win" and the life of misery he lived until his conversion in the garden.


    Any additional comments?

    I would love to see a conversation between Richard Rohr and David Brooks sometime. I think they are coming to the same place in understanding the human experience albeit by different "roads."

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ricardo Ernst 06-01-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Good for Reflexion"
    What did you love best about The Road to Character?

    The book allows readers to re-calibrate their personal expectations. Reading about other people with true 'character" is very motivating.


    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Garrett Louisville, Kentucky 03-10-17
    S. Garrett Louisville, Kentucky 03-10-17 Member Since 2011
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    "Informative and edifying, but overly long"

    I am a huge fan of David Brooks but I ended up skipping the final chapter and a half. There was good content and analysis, but the deep probing into psyches and moral development became tedious after awhile. I did appreciate learning more about influential personalities from the past.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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    hilda kabushenga 07-06-15 Member Since 2016
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    "my new life mantra"

    this book has changed my attitude towards myself and my life's goals. not only did I enjoy it immensely, I know I will learn from it every day of my life

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cesar Ghisilieri Photography 05-14-15 Member Since 2016
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    "Very insightful but a bit too focused Christianity"

    I feel like it would have been a bit more interesting to focus on other influential strong character figures that were not Catholic yet still held a belief in a higher power.

    15 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jane Chicago, IL, United States 11-12-15
    Jane Chicago, IL, United States 11-12-15 Member Since 2015
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    "I really liked a few of the ideas."

    Some of the biographies were interesting, but several parts were dull.

    The author talks about several famous people, giving examples of their work and contributions to society.

    The author divides humans into two selfs: Adam 1 the traits that appear on a resume, Adam 2 the traits that appear on a tombstone or eulogy.

    Adam 2 traits/ideas include the following:
    humility, quiet your own ego
    struggle against sin (selfishness, prejudice, insecurity, cruelty)
    become more disciplined, considerate and loving
    one can achieve a good life through their vocation

    APPRECIATION:
    Two examples showed that one should not do things in hopes of being appreciated. Dorothy Day did many things for the poor and said “don’t expect the poor to appreciate you.” A comment about Augustine “His hunger for admiration enslaved him rather than delighting him. He was at the whim of other people’s facile opinions, sensitive to their slightest criticism.”

    DOMESTIC ABUSE:
    I’ve always wondered why so many men become abusive to their wives. This book was not about that, but one idea I think is a link to that abusiveness. “Power exaggerates the disposition making a rude person ruder and a controlling person more controlling. The higher you go in life, the fewer people there are to offer honest feedback or restrain your unpleasant traits.” If a woman interrupts her career to give priority to the home and children, she loses power, and he has more power.

    AUDIOBOOK NARRATOR:
    The narrator Arthur Morey was good.

    Narrative mode: 3rd person
    Genre: nonfiction self-help, biography.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    peggy Hoag 06-29-15
    peggy Hoag 06-29-15 Member Since 2015
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    "A long road as long as life"

    Thought it was incredible how the author identified major character flaws in last century's famous and infamous leaders. By understanding their weakness and putting someone with the skill set they lack brings amazing workmanship and they are able to accomplish much more than if they were actually good at everything.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terry Craig Seattle, WA USA 04-27-17
    Terry Craig Seattle, WA USA 04-27-17 Member Since 2016
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    "The past is a Scary road to travel"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    It may be safe for white men to travel down the “Road to Character” that Brooks describes, but it’s not safe for me, a gay woman, I’ll take the road built by the fallen souls of the 21st Century. <br/><br/>As the book begins, Brooks enters into the world of his characters and he demonstrates how despite the lousy culture, his character is able to persist. What he describes as a “little me” philosophy held by the dominant culture in the good ol’ days, seems humble and sweet until you remember that these very same people who preached humility believed simultaneously that they that “little me” is “better than” the majority of people on the planet: women, people of color, sexual minorities, people with physical limitations. It they were “little” everyone else was nothing. <br/><br/>He describes a “realist tradition” where we face the reality of our limitations, Dorothy Day lacked emotional stability, and creates meaning and mission where she can contain her limitations. Dwight Eisenhower, prone also to emotional outbursts, finds a way to recalibrate his mind, and provides a country with exemplary leadership. He seems to believe that this realism is limited to all the centuries from Augustine to Eisenhower, but slowly slipped away in his lifetime. It’s an historic shift that just coincidentally happens in his very own lifetime. <br/><br/>Throughout the book Brooks ignores the flaws of the cultural majorities of the past, and focuses his attention on an ideal that is perhaps experienced by a few. At the same time, most disappointing, he ignores the majority of advantages in the current culture focusing instead on a narrow set of flaws. I imagine he lives in the world of privilege, jetting between New York city and Washington D.C., and he can speak convincingly to the small slice of American culture where the big issue adults bemoan is kids texting through dinner. He knows spoiled kids, he understands the flaws of helicopter parenting, and is not wrong when he bemoans self seeking, arrogant people lacking any moral compass. Given the circles he travels in, he must meet a lot. But are there really more of these kinds of people today than in Augustine’s world? Would there have been a need for a Virginia Military Institute, (Brooks describes their mission back in the early 20th century to “toughen up boys of privilege”) had those children in 1897 not been viewed as weak? Did they, in fact, toughen them up? He seems to believe that the issues of white male privilege were handled better back then. And while he acknowledges challenges of poverty remain today, How have the obstacles of poverty, neglect, social discrimination, physical limitations, forged leaders in the late 20th/early 21st century? He describes how Johnny Unitas might be more admirable than Joe Namath, but fails to discuss whether he is more admirable than Michael Jordan or Billie Jean King? Are all athletes in the “good ol’ days” better than all the athletes in the hedonistic now? <br/><br/>At the end of his book, Brooks dismisses positive thinking, positive psychology, and an entire body of work that has created a culture that is more forgiving than ever before and more accepting of diversity than any time in history. It is ironic because the field of positive psychology is this branch of psychology best apt to achieve what Brooks seems to desire most - consistent behavior regardless of outside conditions and holds that we are our best selves when we do the right thing, not the reactive thing. Isn’t that the exact character achievement he points to in his description of black civil rights leader A. Philip Randolf, a man who doesn’t allow the behavior of those around him to shake his determination to respond with dignity. Why is Randolf so much more remarkable than Oprah Winfrey? How does he provides us an example of character and she doesn’t? <br/><br/>Yes, Samuel Johnson was a compelling moralist, but he lived a miserable life and died unhappy. Why is his contribution more valuable than that of Rick Warren? “A Purpose Driven Life” has sold more books, Warren’s leadership is building a movement, and he also lives a happy life filled with love. The list of those people who have demonstrated character and exemplary leadership after WW2 and into the 21st century is long: I’ll take Colin Powell over George Marshall, or Barack Obama over Dwight Eisenhower, they both overcame incredible obstacles, they both provided moral leadership, and most importantly to me, they both lived lives filled with love and joy. <br/><br/>The road to Character need not be one that lacks joy and love, and while we all understand obstacles are part of the process of forging our character, books like “The Power of Vulnerability” by Dr. Brene Brown, and the “Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathon Haidt, are much more helpful guides to building the kind of character Brooks admires. <br/>


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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