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The Road to Character
Cover of The Road to Character
The Road to Character
#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.

    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE ECONOMIST

    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
  • #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.

    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE ECONOMIST

    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
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    • From the cover Chapter 1
      The Shift

      On Sunday evenings my local NPR station rebroadcasts old radio programs. A few years ago I was driving home and heard a program called Command Performance, which was a variety show that went out to the troops during World War II. The episode I happened to hear was broadcast the day after V—J Day, on August 15, 1945.

      The episode featured some of the era's biggest celebrities: Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, Bette Davis, and many others. But the most striking feature of the show was its tone of self—effacement and humility. The Allies had just completed one of the noblest military victories in human history. And yet there was no chest beating. Nobody was erecting triumphal arches.
      "Well, it looks like this is it," the host, Bing Crosby, opened. "What can you say at a time like this? You can't throw your skimmer in the air. That's for run—of—the mill holidays. I guess all anybody can do is thank God it's over." The mezzo—soprano Risë Stevens came on and sang a solemn version of "Ave Maria," and then Crosby came back on to summarize the mood: "Today, though, our deep—down feeling is one of humility."

      That sentiment was repeated throughout the broadcast. The actor Burgess Meredith read a passage written by Ernie Pyle, the war correspondent. Pyle had been killed just a few months before, but he had written an article anticipating what victory would mean: "We won this war because our men are brave and because of many other things—​-because of Russia, England, and China and the passage of time and the gift of nature's materials. We did not win it because destiny created us better than all other people. I hope that in victory we are more grateful than proud."

      The show mirrored the reaction of the nation at large. There were rapturous celebrations, certainly. Sailors in San Francisco commandeered cable cars and looted liquor stores. The streets of New York's garment district were five inches deep in confetti.1 But the mood was divided. Joy gave way to solemnity and self—doubt.

      This was in part because the war had been such an epochal event, and had produced such rivers of blood, that individuals felt small in comparison. There was also the manner in which the war in the -Pacific had ended—-with the atomic bomb. People around the world had just seen the savagery human beings are capable of. Now here was a weapon that could make that savagery apocalyptic. "The knowledge of victory was as charged with sorrow and doubt as with joy and gratitude," James Agee wrote in an editorial that week for Time magazine.

      But the modest tone of Command Performance wasn't just a matter of mood or style. The people on that broadcast had been part of one of the most historic victories ever known. But they didn't go around telling themselves how great they were. They didn't print up bumper stickers commemorating their own awesomeness. Their first instinct was to remind themselves they were not morally superior to anyone else. Their collective impulse was to warn themselves against pride and self—glorification. They intuitively resisted the natural human tendency toward excessive self—love.

      I arrived home before the program was over and listened to that radio show in my driveway for a time. Then I went inside and turned on a football game. A quarterback threw a short pass to a wide receiver, who was tackled almost immediately for a two—yard gain. The defensive player did what all professional athletes do these days in moments of personal accomplishment. He did a self—puffing victory dance, as the camera...
    About the Author-
    • David Brooks is a columnist for The New York Times and frequent broadcaster. His previous books include the bestsellers The Social Animal and Bobos in Paradise. His New York Times columns reach over 800,000 readers across the globe.
    Reviews-
    • AudioFile Magazine In this intriguing and ably narrated audiobook, columnist and public television commentator David Brooks explores what it means to have true depth of character--the kind lauded in a eulogy rather than that listed on a resume. 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. In mini-profiles of such varying people as General George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower's mother, Ida, and former football player Joe Namath, Brooks explores the traits that make us more than worthy. A.C.S. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine
    • Publisher's Weekly

      March 9, 2015
      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. Brooks (The Social Animal) draws on the dichotomy in human nature proposed by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchick in his 1965 essay "The Lonely Man of Faith," which divides humanity between the external, social-based "Adam I," and internal, moral "Adam II." On this basis, he tackles sin, promiscuity, and the "central" vice of pride. He also formulates a "Humility Code" as a pathway to a secular type of holiness. Brooks puts forward exemplary figures who recognized their inner weaknesses and overcame those flaws through love of God, family, country, and vocation. They include governmental figures like Gen. George Marshall and President Dwight Eisenhower; Catholic social worker Dorothy Day; theologian St. Augustine; "humanist" writers George Eliot, Samuel Johnson, and Michel de Montaigne; and civil rights leaders A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin. Brook's poignant and at times quite humorous commentary on the importance of humility and virtue makes for a vital, uplifting read.

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      All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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