Review: The Social Animal
David Brooks pens a prominent column in the New York Times where he muses on politics and currents affairs. His column's popularity stems from the fact that he uses clear, accessible language to distil his thoughts on an array of highly complex issues. That skill is right at the fore in this terrific book; Brooks employs his signature easy-to-understand style to shed light on the human condition.
The Social Animal is indeed a unique beast of a book. A combination of old-fashioned science journalism and in-depth research has led to Brooks dissecting a gamut of issues from behavioural science (like how we fall in love; how we adapt in new environments; good parenting; etc.) to psychology, culture, socioeconomics, philosophy, sociology and politics. It is a hard book to categorize, but then again, humanity itself defies pigeonholing.
Brooks not only explains his findings and concepts in layman-like language, but he hooks these ideas onto characters that are then carried along by a plot. The narrative which he weaves follows the lives of people from diverse backgrounds. We are told why certain things are the way they are through these characters. This is a masterstroke because it's an excellent way to demonstrate how social interactions shape the person we go on to be.
I'd stop short of issuing a "must-read" call on this book. While fascinating insights abound, some bits do feel as though they've leapt off the pop psychology textbook; and his very American references can fly over the top of one's head. Still, it's a highly engaging, and entertaining, piece of work that deserves all the accolades it has received. Ultimately, it's a book that, in addition being a highly intelligent portrayal of the times, shows you the ingredients you need in order to be a successful, happy human being.
The e-book The Social Animal is now available at www.ilovebooks.com.
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