The Road to Character

by David Brooks | 320 pages

In today’s world, the road to character has a much less defined map than the road to external success. In this thoughtful, penetrating book, New York Times op-ed columnist and author David Brooks walks us through the evolution of our culture away from a character ethic toward a society all about what he calls the “Big Me.” And, of course, he shows us the way back to character. Big Ideas we explore include résumé virtues vs. eulogy virtues, answering the summons, conquering yourself, living for holiness and becoming strongest at your weakest point.


“We live in a society that encourages us to think about how to have a great career but leaves many of us inarticulate about how to cultivate the inner life. The competition to succeed and win admiration is so fierce that it becomes all-consuming. The consumer marketplace encourages us to live by a utilitarian calculus, to satisfy our desires and lose sight of the moral stakes involved in everyday decisions. The noise of fast and shallow communications makes it harder to hear the quieter sounds that emanate from the depths. We live in a culture that teaches us to promote and advertise ourselves and to master the skills required for success, but that gives little encouragement to humility, sympathy, and honest self-confrontation, which are necessary for building character.

This is a book about … how some people have cultivated strong character. It’s about one mindset that people through the centuries have adopted to put iron in their core and to cultivate a wise heart. I wrote it, to be honest, to save my own soul. …

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 others have trodden it.”

~ David Brooks from The Road to Character

In today’s world, the road to character has a much less defined map than the road to external success.

In this thoughtful, penetrating book, New York Times op-ed columnist and author David Brooks walks us through the evolution of our culture away from a character ethic toward a society all about what he calls the “Big Me.”

And, of course, he shows us the way back to character.

David is explicit that the book isn’t a “7 point program” to build your character. Rather he shares stories of moral exemplars (ranging from Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall to Frances Perkins and Dorothy Day) to inspire us to be a little better today than we were yesterday.

It’s a deeply inspiring read and I highly recommend it. (Get a copy here.) Of course, it’s packed with Big Ideas and I’m excited to share a few of my favorites we can apply to our lives today, so let’s jump straight in!

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About the author

Authors

David Brooks

Op-Ed columnist at The Times, author of The Road to Character.