The Road to Character, by David Brooks

Ok, here’s my second book review.  Last month I described a book about the Treaty of Versailles.  This month I switched over to a book I first heard about on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS show back in April.

The concept is an interesting one.  Brooks talks about our fixation on what he calls our “resume virtues.”  These are things that help us on the wallet side of things.  Better jobs, more money and additional status.  But we tend to ignore what he calls our “eulogy virtues.”  These are the attributes that form a more inner character.  Kindness, honesty and the like.

The first chapter is a great introduction to Brooks’ core concepts.  He describes some of the changes that he sees in terms of American Society since the 40’s.  The priority was more on belonging, contributing to society and the like.

To be clear, Brooks is not saying they were better.  There were numerous comparisons to “the old ways” where we’ve clearly improved (race and gender being a couple of obvious ones).

But he makes the case (with some justification) that we’re collectively and individually missing something.  And Brooks breaks down several examples of individuals who lived their lives focusing on developing as much (or more) “eulogy virtues” versus “resume virtues.”  Examples include Dwight D. Eisenhower, and English writer Samuel Johnson.

The core lessons of the book are great.  Some of the individual examples are better than others.  But overall a worthwhile book.