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The Road to Character Hardcover – April 14, 2015
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“David Brooks—the New York Times columnist and PBS commentator whose measured calm gives punditry a good name—offers the building blocks of a meaningful life.”—Washingtonian
“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
“[Brooks] emerges as a countercultural leader. . . . The literary achievement of The Road to Character is inseparable from the virtues of its author. As the reader, you not only want to know about Frances Perkins or Saint Augustine. You also want to know what Brooks makes of Frances Perkins or Saint Augustine. The voice of the book is calm, fair and humane. The highlight of the material is the quality of the author’s moral and spiritual judgments.”—Michael Gerson, The Washington Post
“A powerful, haunting book that works its way beneath your skin.”—The Guardian (U.K.)
“This learned and engaging book brims with pleasures.”—Newsday
“Original and eye-opening . . . At his best, 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
“David Brooks breaks the columnist’s fourth wall. . . . There is something affecting in the diligence with which Brooks seeks a cure for his self-diagnosed shallowness by plumbing the depths of others. . . . Brooks’s instinct that there is wisdom to be found in literature that cannot be found in the pages of the latest social science journals is well-advised, and the possibility that his book may bring the likes of Eliot or Samuel Johnson—another literary figure about whom he writes with engaging sympathy—to a wider general readership is a heartening thought.”—Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker
“If you want to be reassured that you are special, you will hate this book. But if you like thoughtful polemics, it is worth logging off Facebook to read it.”—The Economist
“Brooks uses the powerful stories of people such as Augustine, George Eliot and Dwight Eisenhower to inspire.”—The Times (U.K.)
“Elegant and lucid . . . a pitch-perfect clarion call, issued not with preachy hubris but from a deep place of humility, for awakening to the greatest rewards of living . . . The Road to Character is an essential read in its entirety—Anne Lamott with a harder edge of moral philosophy, Seneca with a softer edge of spiritual sensitivity, E. F. Schumacher for perplexed moderns.”—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
“Brooks, author of The Social Animal, offers biographies of a cross section of individuals who struggled against their own weaknesses and limitations and developed strong moral fiber. . . . [He] offers a humility code that cautions against living only for happiness and that recognizes we are ultimately saved by grace.”—Booklist
“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. . . . [His] poignant and at times quite humorous commentary on the importance of humility and virtue makes for a vital, uplifting read.”—Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Brooks tells us in his introduction that his book is about "how some people have cultivated strong character. It's about one mindset that people through the centuries have adopted to put iron in their core and to cultivate a wise heart. I wrote it to save my soul." What is best about this book is Brooks' willingness to share with us his search for meaning and purpose in his life. Unfortunately, I was sometimes disappointed by the unevenness of the text.
Brooks starts out strong. His first chapter is called "The Shift." Brooks thinks that the American people have become self-centered. He tells us that this "leads to selfishness, the desire to use other people as means to get things for yourself. It also leads to pride, the desire to see yourself as superior to everybody else." Brooks recommends a more humble approach to life and living and reminds us that we are all built from "crooked timber." He quotes Immanuel Kant's famous line, "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made. " Our character must be built from the flaws which are an integral part of all of our lives.
From this good start, Brooks begins to give us historical examples of people who built exemplary lives from their "crooked timber," and he starts with Frances Perkins, who graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1902 and who eventually became a trusted advisor to Franklin Roosevelt and his Secretary of Labor for twelve years.Read more ›
This book starts out talking about what is valuable in society and where the focus lies today and where it was after WWII. There are some stark differences between today and yesteryear. Some of these changes like technology that make life easier but back then it seems that people were more humble, had manners and everything wasn’t about them. Most of the people discussed in this book were brought up at the turn of the 1900’s.
Here are the people written about in the book Frances Perkins, Dwight Eisenhower, Dorothy Day, George Marshal, A. Philip Randolph, Mary Anne Elliot, Augustine & Samuel Johnson,
Here was the main theme of the book:
The push for being the center of attention seems to have distorted the moral compass of society and their own sense of “good”. The events, trials and struggles we face in life tend to shape up for the good or the bad depending upon the choices we make when at the crossroads of difficult decisions. At some point we gain the fortitude to stick with one type of decision based upon what has been learned in previous adverse situations. Character is built on the tough decisions to be made plus life’s experiences.Read more ›
I enjoyed this opening discussion as well as several of the examples of individuals who had found their "vocation" (rather than "career") often through a circumstance in their life which propelled them toward it. Many times, their calling found them. I liked the emphasis on humility and the importance of being a good person not just doing good deeds. I also enjoyed reading about the Triangle Factory Fire and other incidents which pointed certain individuals toward their ultimate destinies. I truly admire the values he promotes and was pleasantly reminded of my father's generation which lived many of those values through WWII and other historic events.
But as I continued to read the book, I started to get a sense of "back in the good old days" nostalgia that implies (or blatantly states) that somehow suffering is the key to nobility and a good person.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Gives you so much to ponder, to digest. Talking with a friend also reading it shows me how multidimensional he writes.Published 13 hours ago by M. Johnson
Excellent mini-bios of George Elliot, Samuel Johnson, Dorothy Day, Augustine, George Marshall and Eisenhower. Read morePublished 2 days ago by T. Swartz
Everyone needs a copy of this book. Having the depth of character to stand on principle is essential.Published 3 days ago by J. Diller
This should be at the top of the reading list for both candidates now running for president in 2016.Published 5 days ago by Thomas A. Bailey
I read this book for Bookclub and expected to not like it, which was what happened during the introduction. Read morePublished 6 days ago by Just Read
Thanks for the exercise in epistemology. This was a cast of characters I would not have put together. Bravo David.Published 6 days ago by Alex
This book is so thought provoking. I could not put it down. It has been read by many of my friends and family and has been fun to discuss at the breakfast or dinner table.Published 8 days ago by LiteraryDiva
I have mentioned parts of this book to people three times already this week. Great food for thought!Published 10 days ago by Rev Heidi