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The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life Hardcover – April 16 2019
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“David Brooks’s gift—as he might put it in his swift, engaging way—is for making obscure but potent social studies research accessible and even startling.”—The New York Times Book Review
“At his best, Brooks is a normative version of Malcolm Gladwell, culling from a wide array of scientists and thinkers to weave an idea bigger than the sum of its parts.”—USA Today
“Brooks’s considerable achievement comes in his ability to elevate the unseen aspects of private experience into a vigorous and challenging conversation about what we all share.”—San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
- Publisher : Random House (April 16 2019)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0812993268
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812993264
- Item weight : 501 g
- Dimensions : 15.56 x 1.67 x 23.5 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #50,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from Canada
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He did provide some self-disclosure which convinces the reader that he knows what he's talking about.
Top reviews from other countries
He notes that his wife climbed her mountains in reverse. He is divorced.
I’m female and was forced to do things for others growing up. I now intend to restrain my trained generosity to do stuff for me. See a pattern?
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs gets quoted on page 11. As ever.
Probably a useful book for a bloke.
Brooks now sees the struggle for personal advancement—for more money, status and power—as merely a lesser mountain for people to climb. The pursuit of happiness, the American dream...these individualistic strivings have been too emphasized in the contemporary West. There is a second mountain that touches the deeper aspects of our humanity. One climbs it by self-sacrifice and commitment to spouse and community. Above all, one realizes that true joy in life comes from believing and serving something greater than yourself.
Brooks further believes this journey has importance for all of America. It is the baby-boomers hyper-focus on individual achievement that is at the root of our current political malaise. Only by a societal return to an other-centered life can we overcome our tribalism and divisions.
If this journey sounds rather familiar it is because it is the same voyage many people have made throughout history. Thus, Brooks spends most of the book focused on the biographies and thoughts of great men and women with similar experiences. His own personal journey is fittingly secondary.
But this is where the book has a fundamental weakness. While Brooks and those he cites can provide vivid testimonials of their experience there is no effort to ground any of this in a scientific account of human nature, a history of the world or our particular species, etc.
After reading the book one might be left with the impression one has when someone describes how they found God and how that pulled them out of depression, anxiety, lethargy or some other predicament. No one would want to tell somebody to abandon a belief that had such beneficial effects, but a personal experience is just that—personal. Whether it translates from one person to another is highly doubtful.
So while I admire Brooks’ bravery in writing such a counter-cultural work, I have to conclude that the book’s overall argument relies on nothing but testimonials. For someone who gives annual awards to social scientists this seems like a great lacunae. Why should I trust these testimonials if my experience of the world is very different?
In short, if people read this book and become convinced to be other-centered and discover great joy in their life, I would be the last person to dissuade them. But from David Brooks I wanted more. I wanted some account of human nature that would ground this other-directedness in something rational. A powerful testimonial but, in the end, only a testimonial. In my opinion, that makes The Second Mountain an enjoyable but not an essential book.
of the book less interesting, too focussed on David Brooks personal history, his sense of Jewishness & Christianity which were too much a US view of the world, and by definition rather insular.