Book Review: Road to Character

David Brooks explores character development in his recent book, The Road to Character.

The conservative political and cultural commentator and writer for the New York Times explores the science behind morals and culture. His main goals consist of revisiting the moral vocabulary of “good old days” and praising examples of admirable character from history. Brooks uses a conversational and analytical writing style to display his observations and discoveries.

Multiple historical figures and events make up the building blocks of Brooks’s book. While following the lives of individuals, such as Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day and Saint Augustine, each section concentrates on how these individuals become people of great courage, authenticity, strength, etc. However, not all individuals are portrayed as perfect angels. While many of his lead characters are worthy of praise, Brooks does not refrain from describing the flaws of his heroes.

In addition, Brooks takes detours to discuss morals and reflections in a didactic tone. In these sections, Brooks invites his readers to consider what they are reading by analyzing the stories himself.

Though The Road to Character focuses on events of the past, such as the persecution of the Jews during WWII and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, many of the lessons are still relevant to today’s audience. Pushing through grief and responding to circumstances, instead of only having an emotional reaction are a couple lessons Brooks highlights.

[one_third]Brooks invites his readers to consider what they are reading by analyzing the stories himself.[/one_third]

Although most of what Brooks states is agreeable, some issues may bring discomfort to his audience. While most readers may agree with Brooks when he says, “It is important to stay true to that pure inner voice and not follow the conformities of a corrupting world,” reactions to his commentary about more contentious topics, such as homosexuality, may not be as accepting. However, the book allows readers to decide what they believe, as Brooks’s words and tone are consistently geared towards sharing his personal views and logical explanations behind his beliefs.

Mature readers who enjoy theoretical discussions, can handle touchy subjects, and are able to follow a composition that is not plot driven, will most likely enjoy The Road to Character as it contains a wide spectrum of subjects and delves beyond the surface of current issues. Brooks gives his opinions and analysis in a straightforward manner, and readers may understand him but not agree with him entirely.

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