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.
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.