The Road to Character

  • by David Brooks
  • Narrated by Arthur Morey, David Brooks
  • 12 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

"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." (David Brooks)
With the wisdom, humor, curiosity, and sharp insights that have brought millions of readers to his New York Times column and his previous best sellers, 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. Responding to what he calls the culture of the Big Me, which emphasizes external success, Brooks challenges us and himself to rebalance the scales between our "résumé virtues" - achieving wealth, fame, and status - and our "eulogy virtues," those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, faithfulness, and relationships.
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 strong inner character. Labor activist Frances Perkins understood the need to suppress parts of herself so 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.


What the Critics Say

"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." (AudioFile)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Rich, textured stories

After the introduction I regretted buying the book. I'm glad I gave it a second chance and continued. The structure is anecdotal, which I ordinarily find too superficial, but his stories are rich. They will stay with you long after putting the book down. The complex characters are described in the context of their time. It reads like real life: The characters are flawed; The values of their time have fallen out of favor. The stories are well-researched and honestly portrayed.
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- Amazon Customer


Though David Brooks only refers to Adam one and two (a nod to biblical creation), he is arguing “The Road to Character” is formed by two forces of nature in both men and women. The forces of nature are classified here as “Adam and Eve one”, characterized by logic, and rationality, and “Adam and Eve two”, characterized by spirit, sex-drive, instinct, and emotion.

As many know, this is not a new revelation. However, Brooks does a masterful job of recalling several interesting historical figures that are the gravel base and pavement for his “…Road to Character” argument. Because Brooks turns to the past, there is inference, and some suggestion, that the present and future are threatened by an imbalance between the two forces; with a result that implies a diminished character in modern times. One may disagree with that inference and still be entertained and enlightened by Brooks’ historical vignettes of accomplished men and women.

Brooks goes on to give thumb nail histories of Frances Perkins, Dwight Eisenhower, George Marshall, Bayard Rustin, Mary Ann Eliot (aka George Eliot), Samuel Johnson, and others. In each vignette, Brooks outlines a struggle between “Adam and Eve one” and “Adam and Eve two” views of the world. The stories are about the agony felt by human beings struggling with logic and rationality, and its conflicts with spirit, sex drive, instinct, and emotion.
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Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-14-2015
  • Publisher: Random House Audio