The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement

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With an updated and eye-opening postscript that encapsulates and further explores the ‘new sciences of the mind’, New York Times columnist David Brooks’ bestselling The Social Animal provides a moving intellectual adventure, a story of achievement, and a defense of progress. The book tells the story of how success happens, told through the lives of one composite American couple. Harold and Erica. Drawing on a wealth of current research from numerous disciplines, Brooks takes Harold and Erica from infancy to old age, illustrating a fundamental new understanding of human nature along the way: The unconscious mind, it turns out, is not a dark, vestigial place, but a creative one, where most of the brain’s work gets done. This is the realm where character is formed and where our most important life decisions are made – the natural habitat of the social animal. Brooks reveals the deeply social aspect of our minds and exposes the bias in modern culture that overemphasizes rationalism, individualism, and IQ. Notes, Index.

Editorial Reviews

Through the lens of a hypothetical couple and their offspring, New York Times columnist Brooks (On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (and Always Have) In the Future Tense, 2005, etc.) cleverly explores the realms of the psyche and the unconscious mind.

Though culture and politics comprise the bulk of the author's journalistic expertise, the social behavior of humans has always fascinated him. Taking cues from Rousseau, whose controversial treatise Emile charted human educational development through imagined characters, Brooks employs a similar novelistic narrative device in his intricate analysis of two upwardly mobile, likeminded individuals. The fictional couple's initial meeting spurs the author to personify the dynamics of attraction via their gender-specific ";primitive passions"; (";Rob was looking at cleavage, Julia was looking for signs of trustworthiness";), primal scents and cues that would anticipate a lifelong romance. ";Aided by chemistry and carried along by feeling,"; Rob and Julia troubleshoot cohabitation blunders, carnal urges and the birth of son Harold, who, together with his wife-to-be Erica (introduced chapters later), ultimately becomes the focus of the author's behavioral paradigm. Harold's mental development proceeds from kindergarten to high school via cliques, phases and a taboo student-teacher crush. The author expands his group with Erica, an ambitious, ethnically diverse girl raised in a poor public housing project. She excels at a challenging educational platform in her youth and achieves success as a business consultant by cultivating ideas and having Harold develop them for real-world application. Their evolution as husband and wife and consummate professionals is not, however, without a fair share of stumbles. If a bit bloated, the narrative is compelling as Brooks effectively interweaves history, science, statistics and instinctual behavioral patterns into a fictional treatment that reiterates his belief in ";the way unconscious affections and aversions shape daily life.";

An uncommonly brilliant blend of sociology, intellect and allegory.

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Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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