Book Review: The Social Animal, by David Brooks

I saw this book on my Amazon emails and bought it on a whim, which is unusual for me. I’ve already discussed the stages of adulthood, about which I learned by reading this book, in an earlier post.

Ddavid Brooks, by Drona

Brooks, a New York Times columnist for his day job, follows two fictional people, Harold and Erica, through their different childhoods, and early adulthoods as they meet, fall in love and get married, then grow old and eventually die. It covers their development, emotions, work lives, and so on. It’s a model Brooks freely admits to borrowing from Emile by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Harold and Erica’s stories are told in chronological order, interspersed with sections explaining the psychology and sociology behind their actions. This is the inner mind, as Brooks calls it – what we do unconsciously. This style makes the book mostly pretty easy to read. It is written for the average man, not people with a scientific grounding. There are few examples of jargon and he rarely references the names of the studies he is discussing, leaving that for the bibliography.

The book is subtitled ‘A Story Of How Success Happens’ but it’s not a self-help book. In fact, I didn’t really feel that it lived up to the subtitle. Harold and Erica are successful people, but the book didn’t really seem to focus on how and why they were successful to the extent that such a subtitle would suggest.

That said, the book is fascinating at points, even when the topic being discussed does not seem to have any relevance to the stage of Harold and Erica’s lives. A good example of this is Brooks’ diversion to discussing retail psychology, such as the fact that the fruit and vegetable sections of supermarkets are usually near the front, because people who have loaded their trolleys up with foods that are good for them are then more likely to put junk food in the trolley as well. The book is full of interesting information like this, but unfortunately it does lose its way slightly in the second half. It becomes a little less interesting and a little more ponderous.

Still, overall it’s a fascinating book and I would recommend it to any with a passing interest in psychology.


About elentari86

Apparently blogs need to cover a certain niche in order to attract readers. My aim is not to attract readers. I don't deny it would be nice not to just be spouting to myself, but the reason I set this blog up was to give myself somewhere to write down my thoughts. If anyone reads them, that's a bonus. This blog will cover a mix of things - anything that comes to mind that I want to write about. I make no promises about how often I will publish new content.
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2 Responses to Book Review: The Social Animal, by David Brooks

  1. Jeremy Greene says:

    I think it is more about sociology than psychology. I am enjoying it now. I am not sure it would have been worse not to have Harold and Erica to hang the research on. 2 discs – books on tape – left out of 13.

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