David Brooks, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement (New York: Random House, 2011), 448 pp., $27.00.
The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement DAVID BROOKS is not the first contributor to the airport book stand to whom our leaders have turned for enlightenment and instruction. In the search for insight on the issues of the day, the politicians who are meant to be guiding us toward a better world have nudged, blinked, pirouetted on tipping points and anxiously pondered the wisdom of crowds. Yet none of these brightly packaged manuals has proved to have the practical usefulness that was promised. But not to worry, those who govern us are invincible positive thinkers who will never give up the hope of finding someone who will tell them how to conjure away all our problems. The political appeal of Brooks’s book The Social Animal has been nowhere more pronounced than in Britain, where the youthful David Cameron leads a rebranded Conservative Party in a coalition government. Having instructed all members of his cabinet to read this best seller, Cameron then sought the author’s counsel when Brooks was promoting the book in the UK. A seminar at 10 Downing Street was duly arranged and the prime minister’s media advisers seem to have been much impressed by Brooks’s performance. Not to be left on the sidelines, the Labour opposition leader, Ed Miliband, also met the writer. What is it about the New York Times columnist’s book that gives it such an irresistible appeal to politicians?
“This is the happiest story you’ve ever read. It’s about two people who led wonderfully fulfilling lives. They had engrossing careers, earned the respect of their friends, and made important contributions to their neighborhood, their country, and their world.” These first lines go a long way toward explaining why Brooks’s book litters the desks and bedside tables of elected officials.