‘The Road to Character’ by David Brooks

The Road to Characterstarstarstar


Guest Post: Dirk Booy

In David Brooks’ new book, The Road to Character, he argues that we all have two natures: our external nature and our internal nature. He calls these ‘Adam 1’ and ‘Adam 2’ respectively, based on Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik’s book Lonely Man of Faith. ‘Adam 1’ focuses on career, money, status, fame, satisfaction etc., while ‘Adam 2′  on internal character, being good, honest, loving and gracious. Brooks’ reason for writing the book was, “to save my own soul” and to “follow the road to character”, or at least to study those who have ‘trodden it’ already.

The book is a series of chapter length stories of characters ranging from Saint Augustine to Doris Day or from General Marshall to Mary Anne Evans (aka George Eliot). In all these stories, we find that in spite of flaws and weaknesses each were able to demonstrate a high degree of moral character. Brooks, a NY Times columnist, uses each of these examples to communicate the need to confront what truly matters in the world and for each of us to ‘chart our own unique path’ to building character.

Although the book is full of religious undertones (we are ultimately saved by grace), Brooks leaves the path open to a ‘beautiful life’. It is more the journey from ‘defeat to recognition to redemption’ that ultimately leads to joy. The Road to Character is inspirational but in some sense unfulfilling. It is clearly a statement on western culture but fails to bring home the solution. The almost 300 p. book only spends 6 pages on 15 propositions towards a humility code. The reader is left feeling good about oneself but not yet done – perhaps that is why it is called the ‘road’ to character.

One response to “‘The Road to Character’ by David Brooks

  1. This book is on my coffee table at the Cape for guests to pick up and read. I’ve been surprised about how many have started reading it and then rush out to our local book store to purchase their own copy. Seems to be touching men over 50. Thanks, Dirk, for your review.

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