The Social Animal by David Brooks

This is ostensibly the life stories of two people from youth to old age, but it is really a vehicle for illustrating the results of the social and psychological research that is obviously dear to the author’s heart. It’s an engaging mixture of narrative, commentary, and analysis, but it’s clear from the kind of people David Brooks writes about that he’s used to moving in fairly privileged and affluent circles. I didn’t recognize myself in any of his successful, socially integrated, well adjusted characters, and this book made me uncomfortably aware that I am not one of the high achieving A-type personalities that Brooks clearly believes are cut out for success. This book is not without merit, but Brooks clearly lives in a different world from the one I inhabit, and I suspect that his upper middle class profiles are not exactly representative of average Americans either. The book is not exactly The Great Gatsby, but it’s certainly not The Jungle either.

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