The Road to Character by David Brooks: A Book Review
David Brooks is a well-known columnist for The New York Times and a bestselling author of several books, including The Social Animal and The Second Mountain. In his 2015 book, The Road to Character, he explores the concept of character and how it can be cultivated in a culture that values external success and self-promotion.
The Road to Character is divided into two parts. The first part, called \"The Shift\", describes how Western society has moved from a culture of humility and moral realism to a culture of pride and self-expression. Brooks argues that this shift has eroded our sense of inner depth and moral purpose, and has made us more narcissistic, superficial, and unhappy.
The second part, called \"The Crooked Timber\", presents a series of biographical sketches of people who exemplified different aspects of character, such as self-conquest, struggle, self-mastery, dignity, love, ordered love, and self-examination. These people include Frances Perkins, Dwight Eisenhower, Dorothy Day, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, George Eliot, Augustine of Hippo, and Samuel Johnson. Brooks draws lessons from their lives and shows how they developed their character through internal struggle and a sense of their own limitations.
The Road to Character is not a self-help book that offers easy steps or formulas for building character. Rather, it is a book that invites us to rethink our priorities and values, and to strive for a richer inner life marked by humility and moral depth. Brooks writes: \"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.\"[^1^]
If you are interested in reading The Road to Character by David Brooks, you can download a free PDF version of the book from the Internet Archive[^2^] [^3^]. You can also borrow the book from your local library or purchase it from your favorite bookstore.
Brooks also examines the lives of some literary figures who expressed their inner struggles through their works. George Eliot, the author of Middlemarch, was a woman who defied the conventions of her time and lived with a married man. She learned to overcome her self-doubt and insecurity by developing sympathy and compassion for others. Augustine of Hippo, the influential Christian theologian, was a man who indulged in worldly pleasures until he had a dramatic conversion. He realized that he had to surrender his will to God and seek his grace in order to find peace and happiness. Samuel Johnson, the famous lexicographer and writer, was a man who suffered from various physical and mental ailments. He overcame his depression and anxiety by cultivating his intellect and his friendships.
Brooks concludes his book by offering a summary of what he calls the Humility Code, a set of principles that can guide us on the road to character. Some of these principles are: we are not self-sufficient; we have to struggle against our weaknesses; we have to be faithful to a cause larger than ourselves; we have to recognize our own ignorance and limitations; we have to love others unconditionally; we have to face suffering with courage and grace; we have to appreciate the gift of life.
The Road to Character is a book that challenges us to rethink our values and priorities, and to seek a deeper and more meaningful life. Brooks writes: \"The road to character is built by confronting your own weakness. Itâs about putting more emphasis on your soul than on your self.\"[^4^] aa16f39245