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The Road to Character by David Brooks
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The Road to Character (edition 2016)

by David Brooks (Author)

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5671117,547 (3.47)12
Member:gregvogl
Title:The Road to Character
Authors:David Brooks (Author)
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2016), Edition: Reprint, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:religion, philosophy, history

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The Road to Character by David Brooks (Author)

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Albeit a bit preachy in spots, this modern-day [Profiles in Courage] was an enjoyable and enlightening read. Brooks impressed me during the 2016 election season by appearing as a "conservative" with a brain fully engaged and not merely an ideologue. I am glad to have read this. ( )
  kaulsu | Sep 18, 2017 |
“I will be conquered; I will not capitulate.” That sounds like Samuel Beckett, but it’s actually Samuel Johnson. While Beckett wrestled with words and narrative structures, Johnson battled with physical limitations and inner demons. Both expressed something only a minor fraction of humanity can hope to attain.

But this book isn’t about Beckett. It’s not even about Samuel Johnson, really. He’s one character, one human, throughout history who Brooks has snagged to put alongside his cast of mature, wise and morally-driven exemplars. It’s an appeal to our better, deeper, inner selves to reclaim the lexicon of what once made great persons great: sin, grace, demons. Not a call to re-embrace religion, but a reawakening to a language that can help define a more purposeful life; a shifting of emphasis from “I” to “we”, or, more properly, from “why me?” to “what should I do about this?” when presented with a challenge. An existence spent more on building a character of resolution and sinew and less on a string of accomplishments or rewards. A slowly growing soul, with a lifetime’s accretion of wisdom—heartbreaks and defeats turned toward a love of humanity and a deep calling—weaknesses become strengths. The end to a journey where a host of others can show up and expound on who you were. A bullet-pointed list on paper pales in comparison. It’s not the résumé, it’s the eulogy.

Every section, every person in this book has its fascination—its lesson to impart. I, however, responded most deeply to the chapters “Love” (about Mary Anne Evans, a.k.a. George Eliot) and “Self-Examination” (about Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne); maybe because they resonated with my own spirit and hinted at my own weaknesses. Passion is surely my Achilles’ heel and yet it’s my greatest strength. This book, though, has challenged me to truly conquer that weakness, to notice when it’s destructive and not constructive, and realize that it’s not so much about victory in each instance, but a constant vigilance against that destruction—and that it’s OK if it takes a lifetime to achieve. That gives me peace.

When I’d heard David Brooks on Sam Harris’ podcast, “Waking Up”, I knew immediately that I’d buy this book. I knew that I’d devour it. I knew that it would have sticking bits on its way toward the bowels. I’m so grateful that it didn’t disappoint, but I’m even more grateful to be aware and active in reclaiming those lost words on our road to becoming greater characters, soulful and graceful and stumbling, and not fret over the dust on the shoes.


“The person who successfully struggles against weakness and sin may or may not become rich and famous, but that person will become mature. Maturity is not based on talent or any of the mental or physical gifts that help you ace an IQ test or run fast or move gracefully. It is not comparative. It is earned not by being better than other people at something, but by being better than you used to be. It is earned by being dependable in times of testing, straight in times of temptation. Maturity does not glitter. It is not built on the traits that make people celebrities. A mature person possesses a settled unity of purpose. The mature person has moved from fragmentation to centeredness, has achieved a state in which the restlessness is over, the confusion about the meaning and purpose of life is calmed. The mature person can make decisions without relying on the negative and positive reactions from admirers or detractors because the mature person has steady criteria to determine what is right. That person has said a multitude of noes for the sake of a few overwhelming yeses.” ( )
  ToddSherman | Sep 18, 2017 |
Excellent collection of short biographies used to illustrate a general path towards building character in an age that values external shows of success over internal growth (pics or it didn't happen).

One star off for Brooks's slightly repetitive writing style. This works well on the audio, but it's a little tedious when reading the printed book. (I started with the audio and finished the hardcover.) ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Jun 20, 2017 |
I thought I added this three days ago, but I guess not. Anyway, have you ever seen a movie trailer that made you want to see the movie? Only to be sadly disappointed when it turned out to be quite bad? The deceiving trailer either had all the best jokes or action...sigh. I heard a snippet of a review on NPR which grabbed my attention when it quoted Brooks's opening anecdote about how America reacted at the end of WWII compared to now, and with more of the "now" with respect to sports celebrations being all about the "me" as an indicator of today gone wrong. That was the teaser that contained pretty much everything good about this book.

I liked the story in the first chapter because it stuck a chord, but Brooks lost me in the second chapter with:Today the word "sin" has lost its power and awesome intensity.
What the hell? I can't even think about dignifying that nonsense with a rebuttal, but he takes it even further with Furthermore, the concept of sin is necessary because it is radically true.
Still shaking my head. And it goes downhill from there. It's clear that Brooks has misplaced adoration in his chosen heroes. And he has an interesting moving goal post - a chapter on Eisenhower as virtuous but calling him out for being callous to his ... mistress? Regardless of the veracity of the claims, Brooks did not qualify the term, so must have believed it true and didn't pause to observe the hypocrisy of trumpeting Ike given the presumption of infidelity. Brooks culled some good and some horrific examples of the "virtues" he adores here (on the horrific side, George C. Marshall not turning in his classmates despite them rushing him to urgent medical attention following an extreme hazing incident gone wrong.)

Brooks has distorted ideals, but I am assuming his religious perspective peppered throughout the book explains some of them. There are a few good points to take from this, which saves it from one star. But few, which is disappointing, and I wish I'd read something else.
( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
Although I enjoyed this book, it was not at all what I expected. The author gives a lot of information about some historic people, to whom I believe he feels have what he feels is character. The emphasis seems to be more on positive character, and not on how individuals have either negative or positive character. When reading through in-between the lines, the underlying message obtained is that character is obtained through the series of one’s life events and the things that happen to them. My personal believe is certainly not much different in that the things that happen, the adversity we face, and the actions we take to overcome them are what build character. However people also have to know that an upbringing that supports this will and can make all the difference in the world however it is not the only thing that matters. ( )
  Tom_Westlake | Feb 14, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 081299325X, Hardcover)

“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 David Brooks’s The Social Animal
 
“Provocative . . . seeks to do nothing less than revolutionize our notions about how we function and conduct our lives.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
 
“[A] fascinating study of the unconscious mind and its impact on our lives.”The Economist
 
“Compulsively readable . . . Brooks’s considerable achievement comes in his ability to elevate the unseen aspects of private experience into a vigorous and challenging conversation about what we all share.”San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Brooks surveys a stunning amount of research and cleverly connects it to everyday experience. . . . As in [Bobos in Paradise], he shows genius in sketching archetypes and coining phrases.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“Authoritative, impressively learned, and vast in scope.”—Newsweek
 
“An enjoyably thought-provoking adventure.”—The Boston Globe

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 14 Apr 2015 01:14:23 -0400)

""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 "resume 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 David Brooks's The Social Animal "Provocative. seeks to do nothing less than revolutionize our notions about how we function and conduct our lives."--The Philadelphia Inquirer "[A] fascinating study of the unconscious mind and its impact on our lives."--The Economist "Compulsively readable. Brooks's considerable achievement comes in his ability to elevate the unseen aspects of private experience into a vigorous and challenging conversation about what we all share."--San Francisco Chronicle "Brooks surveys a stunning amount of research and cleverly connects it to everyday experience. As in [Bobos in Paradise], he shows genius in sketching archetypes and coining phrases."--The Wall Street Journal "Authoritative, impressively learned, and vast in scope."--Newsweek "An enjoyably thought-provoking adventure."--The Boston Globe"--"#1 New York Times bestselling author David Brooks, a controversial and eye-opening look at how our culture has lost sight of the value of humility - defined as the opposite of self-preoccupation - and why only an engaged inner life can yield true meaning and fulfillment"--… (more)

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