David Brooks

Wisdom, politics, and the choreography of neighborhoods.

Known to readers of the NewYork Times and to public television viewers as a measured voice in an eraof tumultuous political and cultural antagonisms, David Brooks has now writtenthree books that display a droll, venturesome, and surprisingly quirkyintelligence. In his bestselling work of “comic sociology,” Bobosin Paradise, he suggested the union of two previouslydisparate strands of society—economically successful bourgeois and artisticallycreative bohemians—to define the new elite, while On Paradise Drive examined the power of the future-centricperspective that urges forward otherwise dissimilar facets of the Americanpopulace. His new book, The Social Animal, uses recent advances in brainscience to explore a new framework for understanding the way we learn, live,and interact with the world around us. He shared with us three of his favoritebooks.

Books by David Brooks

The Hedgehog and the Fox

By Isaiah Berlin

“In this essay the British philosopher makes his famous distinction between those people whose lives are oriented around one big idea and those who know a lot of little things. Beyond that, the essay contains a profound meditation on wisdom. It is not scientific or technical knowledge, Berlin argues, but a special sensitivity to the contours of reality, an intuitive sense of what will go together and what will not, what is likely to happen and what will never happen.”

All the King’s Men

By Robert Penn Warren

“This is one of the great political novels in American history. Among other things it explores the difference between those who succeed in politics—who are vain, garrulous, narcissistic but also crusaders—and those of us who write about them, who are often reserved, reflective, idealistic but less vital.”

The Death and Life of Great American Cities

By Jane Jacobs

“There was a golden age of American non-fiction between 1950 and 1965, led by people like Daniel Bell, Digby Baltzell and Jacobs. In this book she shows us a new way of seeing the world. She views her neighborhood in New York as a ballet, as an organic set of interrelationships between the grocers, the kids, the parents and the cops. She shows how their movements and greetings intertwine over the course of the day. We’re not rugged individuals, she shows, but living in a social environment that gives our lives shape and meaning.”