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The Roads to Success   Leave a comment

In The Social Animal, David Brooks blends research with fiction to create an
aggregate life situation. The result is a mostly-engaging look at not just how
people live successful lives, but why. The problem is that the book  is about 100 pages too long.

Of the 406 pages devoted to the scrutiny to the scrutiny of accomplishment, notes
account for 25. Brooks an op-ed writer for The New York Times, cites
everything from the classics to Wired magazine and everything –
believe me, everything – in between. Harold and Erica are Brooks’s guinea pigs
to which the social and scientific studies are applied. Consequently, the range
of topics includes education, romance, parenting, business, politics and
general lifestyle. In fact, the chapters are a chronological life story.

Starting with dating rituals, Brooks introduces the courtship of Harold’s parents (who
disappear after Harold’s adolescence). References to phemerones and
intellectual capability put a damper on any semblance of romance. Yet, as
Brooks notes, hidden beneath the scientific and cultural references is a
relationship waiting to emerge. Although the book starts with Harold’s parents,
the focus is on Harold then Erica as individuals, and, finally, them as a
couple.

Brooks’s approach to why people are motivated to succeed is intriguing. Because Harold and Erica are,
essentially fictional characters, the author is able to get inside their heads and
remain an objective bystander as he cites the studies and surveys explaining
their behavior. Thus, the most appealing aspect of the composite couple is that
there is something of everyone in these two characters.

Random House 2011

448 pages

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement

3-1/2 Bookmarks

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Posted October 10, 2011 by bluepagespecial in Books

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