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Large ideas of the Social Animal

Book Review: The Social Animal by David Brooks

Originally published:  March 8, 2011
Genre: Self-help book
Original language: English

About the author: Bestselling author, a columnist for New York Times, political commentator, founder of The Sydney Award to honor the best political and cultural journalism, co-teacher at Yale University.

 

I found this book at the Stanford University bookstore during one of my trips to California. Thinking that I want to make the investment in my brain, I was exploring what to purchase. The title was luring. #1 New York Times Bestseller… Well, experts know better. The final cut for a decision was made after reading a note about the book from a reviewer: “It should absolutely be on the required-reading list of every MBA program… Book of ‘large ideas’”. Considering that I felt that this is something more than another self-help tome.

The book is a non-fictional explanatory of why and how people behave and make their decisions. The narration goes with the description of human brain work, complex psychological and physiological processes. In order to deliver this information to the reader, the author depicts two fictional characters, Harold and Erica, illustrating their lives in details. It begins with Harold’s and Erica’s childhood and continues with their life progress: meeting each other, marriage, career switch, becoming seniors, and final days. With a clear wording, non-judgmental voice, and real-life cases writer demonstrates characters’ actions, their relationship with family members, friends, colleagues, and, of course, with each other as love partners. All of these through the prism of research findings in sociology, economics, politics, and neuroscience.   

Each page of this book is a depository of knowledge! It triggers your mind, wonders what you would do, what reaction you might have in certain instances. Emotionally I was with Harold and Erica. I was a watcher, an eyewitness of their lives, their trials and errors, failures and success; making these associations  with my own life.

It teaches us to observe what stays behind human emotions and impulses. What can be affected by memories formed in the childhood, or because of the age stage, or it could be caused by the milieu influences. The author made enormous effort in creating a piece with pure analytics in correlations with human feelings. And a round of applause for no soft life recommendations. “The Social Animal” is about us being here, in the society, evolving as homo sapiens species and progressing in behavior as humans.

 

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