I spotted David Brooks' latest non-fiction book, The Road to Character, while I was browsing new books available on NetGalley. It looked like something that I might enjoy and perhaps even find to be inspirational. Thank you to Random House for sending me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT - In The Road to Character, New York Times Columnist David Brooks profiles a range of people spanning several eras that he considers to have a strong sense of character. These are mostly very flawed people, who experienced a bumpy road on their way to developing admirable characteristics. Brooks examines how society's definition of morals and strong character has shifted dramatically over generations. He ends his book with a look at our current society and how technology has shaped our idea of self and character.
LIKE- I was most drawn to Brooks observations of current trends, which comprises a small portion of The Road to Character. I found a few of his character profiles to be fascinating, especially Francis Perkins, an middle-class woman who fought for worker's rights. Brooks sprinkles his book with interesting information involving well known historical figures and ordinary citizens, who are made extraordinary through their depth of character. I enjoyed these glimpses and tidbits.
DISLIKE - The Road to Character was a chore to read. I had to bribe myself to finish it... "Ten more pages and you can make a latte or read something else." The pacing was sluggish. Although Brooks picked some great lives to profile, I'm not sure that I always agreed with his idea of "character". There was a "not so subtle" undercurrent of religion and faith as being a huge factor in character, yet he backpedals at the end of the book, with a mention of religion not being a prerequisite for good character. I agree that religion isn't a must, yet his examples pushed the idea of religion.
Although interesting, I found a majority of the lives that he profiled to be archaic, with lives and values being so vastly different from modern times, that the comparisons rang hallow. I liked how he showed shifts throughout the eras, but I wish that the primary focus had been modern and thus, have current relevance. I anticipated that this book would leave me with thoughts on how to change my own life and shape my own character in modern times, but it didn't. It was a disappointment.
RECOMMEND - No. The Road to Character was a dull read and not as relevant or thought provoking as it should have been.