the road to characterThe Road to Character by David Brooks (2015 nonfiction)

David Brooks is a well-known political and social columnist for the New York Times and a frequent commentator on PBS News Hour and Meet the Press. In recent years he has written books on a variety of subjects exploring the daily lives of people. His most recent book, The Road to Character, is an intriguing exploration of how men and women have a double nature, one side which illustrates the “resume virtues”, those that contribute to external success, pursuit of self-interests, and are reflective of many in our society today. The other side illustrates the “eulogy virtues” which reflect inner moral qualities which are gained by introspection, confrontation with one’s weaknesses, and finally development of character and virtue. According to the author the latter virtues are not as well represented in society and he decided to try to understand how a diverse group of men and women, through the ages and in vastly different times and circumstances, overcame their own foibles, sins, and moral weaknesses to develop strong characters. Francis Perkins, Dwight Eisenhower, Dorothy Day, George Marshall, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, George Eliot, Augustine, Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne serve the author well in illustrating their inner and outer flaws. Brooks shows how the “character” of these diverse individuals enabled them to become significant leaders in their communities during many of the major periods of human history. The author concludes by presenting a “Humility Code”, a series of propositions to allow the reader to explore their own life and how they have developed their personal character.

Reviewed by Ned Lyke