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Publisher's Summary

With unequaled insight and brio, David Brooks, the New York Times columnist and best-selling author of Bobos in Paradise, has long explored and explained the way we live. Now, with the intellectual curiosity and emotional wisdom that make his columns among the most read in the nation, 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. It is told through the lives of one composite American couple, Harold and Erica - how they grow, push forward, are pulled back, fail, and succeed. Distilling a vast array of information into these two vividly realized characters, Brooks illustrates a fundamental new understanding of human nature. A scientific revolution has occurred - we have learned more about the human brain in the last 30 years than we had in the previous 3,000.

The unconscious mind, it turns out, is most of the mind - not a dark, vestigial place but a creative and enchanted one, where most of the brain's work gets done. This is the realm of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, genetic predispositions, personality traits, and social norms: the realm where character is formed and where our most important life decisions are made. The natural habitat of The Social Animal.

Drawing on a wealth of current research from numerous disciplines, Brooks takes Harold and Erica from infancy to school; from the "odyssey years" that have come to define young adulthood to the high walls of poverty; from the nature of attachment, love, and commitment, to the nature of effective leadership. He reveals the deeply social aspect of our very minds and exposes the bias in modern culture that overemphasizes rationalism, individualism, and IQ. Along the way, he demolishes conventional definitions of success while looking toward a culture based on trust and humility.

©2011 David Brooks (P)2011 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"An uncommonly brilliant blend of sociology, intellect and allegory." (Kirkus)

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A nice summary of human psychology

I read this book a while ago, but I remember it being a good summary of a lot of the other psychology books I had read. It encapsulates a lot of research and puts it into a very human perspective. Quite enjoyable to listen to.

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  • Story

Love David on TV ...but ...

Interesting, but very "wonky." I kept wishing for an outline to figure out just what Mr. Brooks was up to here.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kim
  • Hesperus, CO, United States
  • 07-24-11

Loved it

I loved this book. I teach college composition and research writing and would love to use David Brook's clever, insightful, and research-driven text to show the purpose of research.

  • Overall

wonderfully informative and different

Brooks writes an engaging story of 2 people followed from inception (literally) to death (literally). In that saga, he incorporates what science has to tell us today about nature and nurture. My daughter-in-law is due to have her first child 2 months from now and i found the chapters on birth and infancy to be quite fascinating. I was also quite taken with Brooks first person accounting of death. Not something you read (hear) every day! The narration is excellent. Admittedly, there are some boring chapters but there's a trade off between information and story line. Go for it.

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  • Story
  • Tim
  • United States
  • 06-15-11

Could had been great, but All Made Up

Brooks is comparing and contrasting two different made up lives and how they clash together in our social deal. He doesn't really do it well enough. Knowing the stories are made up kinda is the downfall of this book. I can see the points that he is making, but the stories aren't too far fetch where if he did a little more research, he could had wrote something that is real, then what is thought up in his head. In these kinds of books, I like real examples. If you ever read Outliers, you would know exactly in what I'm talking about.

I just like real subjects when reading these kinds of book. If Brooks did a little more research, this title would be outstanding, but his characters are made up and he is trying to put the facts and fable together, which is interesting, but not great.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Captivating!

I found this book riveting. I learned so much, and was very entertained. Brooks did such a good job interweaving the stories of his main characters, Harold and Erica, and the most current research on human behavior. I was was so attached to Harold and Erica that I was crying at the end of the book, when they too live the last chapter of their lives.

  • Overall

Who is listening?

Absolutely fabulous! With the application of this knowledge there might be hope for humanity. The unconcious drives us!

  • Overall
  • Rahel
  • Wylie, TX, United States
  • 04-28-11

Amazing

Simply amazing book! I have always waited for someone to describe life this way! It's the little details in your life that count more!

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Unusual and Insightful...

Mr. Brooks presents a great and insightful look at typical Americans. He shows a common-sense ability to "call a spade, a spade" without "political correctness". He has a clear communication style that lends itself well to the spoken word as well as the written word. Mr. Brooks presents examples of how ordinary people make their way under a variety of conditions. There are some practical tools for success presented as well as some examples of how many people find themeselves questioning so-leaders who are more self-promoting than actually leading. This is an excellent book for anyone who has more than a passing interest in human nature and in modern American culture. Mr. Brooks is an excellent observer with great insight.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Perfect synergy of science and reflection.

Mr. Brooks brings together mainstream scientific theory, flawless reflection, and laser precise observation on subject matter that encompasses us every day. I thoroughly enjoyed envisioning two peoples journey through their entire lives while having explained (in detail) how each significant moment was shaped by preceding significant moments. I particularly loved the science behind it all, how it came to be, and how it shapes us. I learned quite a bit about me and my life through the story of Erica and Harold. I am simply in awe of Mr. Brooks' ability to bring all of this fact, reflection, and observation into one beautiful work. Kudos to you sir!

3 of 6 people found this review helpful