The Road to Character

The Road to Character

by David Brooks


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#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.
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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594720324
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/14/2015
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,313
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

David Brooks is one of the nation’s leading writers and commentators. He is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times and appears regularly on PBS NewsHour and Meet the Press. He is the bestselling author of The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement; Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There; and On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense.

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Chapter 1

Excerpted from "The Road to Character"
by .
Copyright © 2015 David Brooks.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction Adam II xi

Chapter 1 The Shift 3

Chapter 2 The Summoned Self 16

Chapter 3 Self-Conquest 48

Chapter 4 Struggle 74

Chapter 5 Self-Mastery 105

Chapter 6 Dignity 130

Chapter 7 Love 153

Chapter 8 Ordered Love 186

Chapter 9 Self-Examination 213

Chapter 10 The Big Me 240

Acknowledgments 271

Notes 275

Permission Credits 285

Index 287

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The Road to Character 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
dtfamily5 More than 1 year ago
Barnes and Noble needs to edit out a lot of comments that are "reviews." Or set up a better spam filter. There was nothing helpful in the review area regarding this book, including someone who said the book used too many words. Maybe a Dr. Seuss book should be recommended for that "reviewer." To David Brooks' latest work, this is a marvelous read. Brooks has decided to tackle head on the need for a moral conversation in this country again. There is a need to talk about character and how character is built. He uses examples from history and demonstrates how character can be built in so many ways.  We lack moral conversation in this nation and Brooks has dared to put it front and center again. I am thankful for his efforts. 
ambVA More than 1 year ago
This book is not just practical, it's meaningful and filled with purpose. Brooks filled this book with examples of humble people of both yesterday and today on how we as people can improve our daily lives. Brooks does in a simple caring tone what many selfhelp book doesn't. He inspires you to make a change not just for yourself but also for all of those around you. This book is a must for any fans of self improvement not selfhelp but self improvement books.
iaijohn More than 1 year ago
David Brooks presents a contrast between what he calls resume values and eulogy values. The former being skills, the latter virtues. Then the author recognizes two opposing sides of our nature. The career-oriented ambitious side of our nature wants to build, create, discover and produce; it is called Adam I and wants to win victories and achieve high status. The other side called Adam II is concerned with morality, transcendent truth, in a word the soul. Adam I want to conquer the world, Adam II wants to serve it. There is a tension between both Adams because they live by different logics. Our culture nurtures Adam I and neglects Adam II. To strengthen Adam II we need to straighten the "crooked timber" that we all are built with. That is the beginning of building the road to character and this book is about people who cultivated strong character. The first chapter looks at the shift toward self-love in our culture that happened decades ago. It was reflected in a change from a culture of self-effacement to one of self-promotion. In past times there seemed to be sanctions against blowing one's own trumpet. Today our culture supports what the writer calls the Big Me. He notes that the central fallacy of life today is the belief that our Adam I accomplishments will give us deep satisfaction. But Adam I only wins victories over others. Therefore we need Adam II to build character by winning victories over ourselves. Often we need outside help from others. This book celebrates those who had a devotion to some cause that elevated their desires and organized their energies. The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire drove Frances Perkins to fight for worker safety. Horrible circumstance called her to act. Later she became involved with Hull House, a place where the poor could find help and a way out of poverty. Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist and German Jew who was send to a concentration camp. He saw his lot was to help others who suffered with him. Because of their situations both found a vocation, not just a job but a life given meaning by their experiences. Dorothy Day survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Her family as left with nothing, so she prayed. She admired the Russian revolution then started a radical newspaper. she volunteered as a nurse during a deadly flu epidemic. But she lead a rowdy life and was arrested twice. She wrote a novel. She had a child. Then she embraced Catholicism and joined the church. She started another newspaper, The Catholic Worker to apply Catholic social teachings and mobilize the proletariat. She embraced a philosophy of "Personalism" that held we should live simply, look after the needs of one another and share in the happiness and misery of others. Her life started out a mess. Her suffering lead her to serve others. She turned away from the big me. The final chapter, The Big Me, contrasts Joe Namath, Big Me, with Johnny Unitas. Information technology inflated our Adam I side and diminished Adam II. First the increases speed of communication emphasized the brief and quick ideas over the more profound, deeper thoughts. Social media is self-referential and encourages a broadcast personality, the age of the selfie. Let's rediscover Adam II by reviving the crooked timber school. Admit we are imperfect, yes sinful. The author says embrace humility so that we can get a perspective of self-awareness from which to see strengths, weaknesses, connections and dependencies. It is th
Paula5 More than 1 year ago
There is so much worthy material in this book -- it makes me want to read the entire library of books, articles and interviews David Brooks absorbed to condense into this book. Great gift for a 20-something and inspiring for a 50-something. " you can't teach moral code, or email it or tweet it, example is the best teacher". and David Brooks succinctly provides strong women and men's paths that propel one to the Best they can be. It's been my daily read for several days and each day he brings a warm heart, inspiration, and finely articulate communication. Read it and find others you know who need to absorb the perspectives of the lives he shares in this book. The book is an excellent, enriching road. I agree with dtfamily5's remark, "Brooks has dared to put moral conversation front and center". I am also thankful; he has provided a book to generate active, moral conversation throughout my family and my professional friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brooks' clear, concise writing is interesting and easy to follow. His selection of people for examples is superb.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When i read a self help book, i need to be grabbed and pulled in by the authors carisma to begin the change in myself. This author does not meet that task. He is very wordy and the message gets lost very easily or i get bored. The message did not not inspire me to change at all. It wss too long a book for the simple concept to look further into yourself and be more introspective. I tried 6 times to finish but it was too essy to put it down. I almost feel like you need to be greater than 55 to enjoy this read Kelly McGonigal produces far better results that i reflect on every day. The author is obviously talented. And with Bill Gates recomendation, i was ready to be blown away. Drop your expectations.
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mikate More than 1 year ago
more academic than I expected but very thought provoking
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A book for everybody, but specially for those that are, or want to become, politicians. Good book David! Society needs books like this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AER More than 1 year ago
I found " The Road To Character" compelling. Framing the narrative around the creation stories of Adam in Genesis was a stroke of genius. It sets the tone for the entire book. Each of the mini biographies is excellent with one exception. The narrative on Saint Augustine is incomplete. As great as Saint Augustine is, his writings set the predicate for the mistreatment of Jews until Vatican II. See City of God 18:46 and Against Faustus 12:10. Brooks could also have included Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in his mini biographies. Finally, the 15 points in his "Humility Code" in the last chapter seem very pedestrian. Most people know how to act. They just do not act the way that they should.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous 11 months ago
I found some parts of this book a lot better than others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very worthwhile book. It would make a wonderful gift for graduates as they start out on their working lives. It would be good for anyone, whatever their age and life experiences.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was well researched and I learned something about the historical people that David Brooks used as examples. However, the book didn't actually say much about how character is developed or focus on a theme. I read this book for a book club, and felt like I was reading a required reading that I was forced to read in high school. This is the first of David Brooks books that I have read. I felt that I did not learn anything new, but I learned more about the author's views which until now I had only read in newspaper columns.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is well written and interesting, but the author decided to become potty mouthed. Not worth buying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very disappointing. The subject of the book is fascinating. The first part of the introduction suggests that it's going to be a wonderful book. He seriously needs an editor. He goes on and on and on... David Brooks is very intelligent and I really respect him. He just uses way too many words..