Bride & Groom MOM Subscribe

Find Local

Capital Comment Blog > Reads

Washington Reads: The Social Animal by David Brooks

The Times’ big thinker explores the latest in brain research

Writers are like fishermen in the stream of culture. In most cases, an important idea isn’t enough to hook readers; it takes some bait, and keeping us on the line requires sustained ingenuity. Make no mistake, David Brooks’s The Social Animal is a heady primer on the latest trends in brain research, a field currently fixated on the role of the unconscious mind—the realm of feelings, desires, and imagination—in human happiness and prosperity. What makes these abstract concepts palatable, even endearing, is how Brooks—a New York Times columnist who lives in Bethesda—presents them in the form of a story. Raiding philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s toolbox, Brooks creates two characters, Harold and Erica, and trails them across their lives—from Harold’s childhood laughing fits and Erica’s extramarital affair to their final vacation, a cathedral tour of France—letting their impulses and emotions put flesh on the data.

According to Brooks, who can make cold science sound like a Hermann Hesse novel, research is confirming what self-help gurus have always known: Factors such as family, hard work, and love trump reason, IQ, and money on the path to fulfillment. “He had been born with certain connections,” Brooks writes, “and since the brain is the record of the feelings of a life, he had slowly accreted new neural connections in his head. And yet Harold couldn’t help but think how enchanted it all was.”

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Follow Washingtonian on Twitter
 

More>> Capital Comment Blog | News & Politics | Party Photos

Read Next

Restaurant/Bar Specials for 2015 Capital Pride Weekend

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus

Most Popular on Washingtonian

The Summer Drinking Semifinals: Denizens Brewing Co. vs. Jack Rose

10 Offbeat Date Ideas in Washington

The Summer Drinking Finals: POV Lounge vs. Jack Rose

Donald Trump Sues José Andrés Over Old Post Office Hotel Restaurant

The 15-Step, Absolutely Perfect Burger

6 Great Swimming Holes Near Washington, DC

Things to Do in DC This Weekend July 30-August 2: BRNDA, a Midnight Run, and "Hip-Hop Meets the Music of Ireland"

21 Things to Do in DC This August

6 Can't-Miss Restaurant Openings This Week