David Brooks

Author, The Social Animal
New York Times Columnist

Major political and social analyst.

Add to Shortlist NYT Column @nytdavidbrooks

Biography

David Brooks has a gift for bringing audiences face to face with the spirit of our times with humor, insight and quiet passion. He is a keen observer of the American way of life and a savvy analyst of present-day politics and foreign affairs.

He holds several prestigious positions as a commentator:

  • Bi-weekly Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times
  • Regular analyst on PBS NewsHour and NPR’s All Things Considered

David’s current book (now in paperback), The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, uses the story of a fictional American couple to explain the importance of neuroscience and sociology in understanding America's politics, culture, and future. It turns out that the unconscious mind is most of the mind — not a dark, vestigial place but a creative and enchanted one, where most of the brain’s work gets done. This is the realm of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, genetic predispositions, personality traits, and social norms: the realm where character is formed and where our most important life decisions are made. David turns these discoveries into a moving and nuanced intellectual adventure, a story of achievement and a defense of progress.

His previous books, Bobos in Paradise and On Paradise Drive are in a style he calls "comic sociology"—descriptions of how we live and "the water we swim in" that are as witty and entertaining as they are revealing and insightful. Bobos in Paradise was a New York Times bestseller.

David is currently teaching a course at Yale University. He holds honorary degrees from Williams College, New York University, Brandeis University, Occidental College, among others. In 2010, Brooks became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

David Brooks has worked at The Weekly Standard, joining the magazine at its inception and serving as senior editor. He has been a contributing editor at Newsweek and the Atlantic Monthly. He worked at The Wall Street Journal for nine years in a range of positions, including op-ed editor.

Credentials

  • Jackson Senior Fellow, Yale University
  • Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times
  • Weekly political commentator, PBS NewsHour
  • Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Regular commentator on NPR
  • Former writer, editor or columnist for Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Monthly, Newsweek, The Weekly Standard, and other major print media

Books

The Social Animal

The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement

David Brooks

With unequaled insight and brio, David Brooks, the New York Times columnist and bestselling author of Bobos in Paradise, has long explored and explained the way we live. Now, with the intellectual curiosity and emotional wisdom that make his columns among the most read in the nation, Brooks turns to the building blocks of human flourishing in a multilayered, profoundly illuminating work grounded in everyday life.

This is the story of how success happens. It is told through the lives of one composite American couple, Harold and Erica—how they grow, push forward, are pulled back, fail, and succeed. Distilling a vast array of information into these two vividly realized characters, Brooks illustrates a fundamental new understanding of human nature. A scientific revolution has occurred—we have learned more about the human brain in the last thirty years than we had in the previous three thousand. The unconscious mind, it turns out, is most of the mind—not a dark, vestigial place but a creative and enchanted one, where most of the brain’s work gets done. This is the realm of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, genetic predispositions, personality traits, and social norms: the realm where character is formed and where our most important life decisions are made. The natural habitat of The Social Animal.   Drawing on a wealth of current research from numerous disciplines, Brooks takes Harold and Erica from infancy to school; from the “odyssey years” that have come to define young adulthood to the high walls of poverty; from the nature of attachment, love, and commitment, to the nature of effective leadership. He reveals the deeply social aspect of our very minds and exposes the bias in modern culture that overemphasizes rationalism, individualism, and IQ. Along the way, he demolishes conventional definitions of success while looking toward a culture based on trust and humility.

The Social Animal is a moving and nuanced intellectual adventure, a story of achievement and a defense of progress. Impossible to put down, it is an essential book for our time, one that will have broad social impact and will change the way we see ourselves and the world.

Random House (March 8, 2011)

Random House Trade Paperbacks (January 3, 2012)

Reviews

ReviewThe Guardian
“The Social Animal”The Washington Post

Praise

Amazon Guest Reviewer: Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute.

David Brooks has written an absolutely fascinating book about how we form our emotions and character. Standing at the intersection of brain science and sociology, and writing with the wry wit of a James Thurber, he explores the unconscious mind and how it shapes the way we eat, love, live, vacation, and relate to other people. In The Social Animal, he makes the recent revolution in neuroscience understandable, and he applies it to those things we have the most trouble knowing how to teach: What is the best way to build true relationships? How do we instill imaginative thinking? How do we develop our moral intuitions and wisdom and character? Brooks has always been a keen observer of the way we live. Now he takes us one layer down, to why we live that way.
— Walter Isaacson

"Authoritative, impressively learned, and vast in scope."
Newsweek

"As in [Bobos in Paradise] he shows genius in sketching archetypes and coining phrases. . . In The Social Animal Mr. Brooks surveys a stunning amount of research and cleverly connects it to everyday experience."
The Wall Street Journal

"[A] fascinating study of the unconscious mind and its impact on our lives . . . Brooks has done well to draw such vivid attention to the wide implications of the accumulated research on the mind and the triggers of human behaviour."
The Economist

"An uncommonly brilliant blend of sociology, intellect and allegory."
— Kirkus Reviews (starred revew)

"Provocative and fascinating . . . seeks to do nothing less than revolutionize our notions about how we function and conduct our lives."
The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Multifaceted, compulsively readable . . . 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

On Paradise Drive

How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense

David Brooks

"As diverse as we are, as complacent as we sometimes seem, Americans are united by a common mentality, which we have inherited from our ancestors and pass on, sometimes unreflectingly, to our kids." "We are united by future-mindedness. We see the present from the vantage point of the future. We are tantalized, at every second of the day, by the awareness of grand possibilities ahead of us, by the bounty we can realize just over the next ridge." "This mentality leads us to work feverishly hard, move more than any other people on earth, switch jobs, switch religions. It made us anxious and optimistic, manic and discombobulating." Even in the superficiality of modern suburban life, there is some deeper impulse still throbbing in the heart of average Americans. That impulse is the subject of this book.

Simon & Schuster, 2004

Bobos in Paradise

The New Upper Class and How They Got There

David Brooks

Do you believe that spending $15,000 on a media center is vulgar, but that spending $15,000 on a slate shower stall is a sign that you are at one with the Zenlike rhythms of nature? Do you work for one of those visionary software companies where people come to work wearing hiking boots and glacier glasses, as if a wall of ice were about to come sliding through the parking lot? If so, you might be a Bobo.

In his bestselling work of "comic sociology," David Brooks coins a new word, Bobo, to describe today's upper class — those who have wed the bourgeois world of capitalist enterprise to the hippie values of the bohemian counterculture. Their hybrid lifestyle is the atmosphere we breathe, and in this witty and serious look at the cultural consequences of the information age, Brooks has defined a new generation.

Touchstone, 2001

Topics

David tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Politics Today

The Social Animal

Videos

Should you live for your résumé ... or your eulogy? | TED

Humility in the Time of 'Me'

The Social Animal | TED

Feedback

A historic town preservation group:
Wow! The evening couldn’t have been a better evening! Mr. Brooks was delightful, and very fun to work with!

A non-profit scholar program foundation:
David — Many, many thanks again for your participation in the [...] scholars conference. Our exploration of the issue of Class Warfare was made all the better by your insightful, incredibly thoughtful and, at times, hilarious contributions.

A town hall forum:
Everyone loved him. A huge hit. Can't say enough great things. What a great guy to work with, too.

A professional association serving educational institutions:
Everything was super with David Brooks. He was such a pleasure to work with! And was an exceptional speaker. Exceptional to the point where we have lots of people calling to ask if we recorded the session, which we have done in the past.

A college:
Gotta love David.

David was absolutely wonderful. People were raving about him. Not only was his talk intelligent and timely, but he was incredibly gracious and accommodating throughout his visit. He must have stood for 30 minutes after the talk ended chatting with students, only leaving after the last student waiting in line had gotten to shake his hand.

An educational lecture series:
Dear David, — Thank you so much for coming to [our] Town Hall and sharing your talents with our community. Your ability to present your views in a thoughtful, "fair and balanced" way resonated with our audience. The way our country is so partisan these days, I was prepared for someone to take offense at something, but you handled the differing points of view so deftly and with such wit and humility that our audience listened with open minds, which is quite a feat for this community.

I have to share and email we got from one of our donors, in which she said: "Thank you for bringing David Brooks. He was excellent! What a treat it was to meet him Friday night and to hear his lecture the next day. Oh how I wish there were more like him in positions of power."
Thank you again for a wonderful presentation.

A town hall lecture series:
Of the many speakers I’ve seen/heard over the last several years, I would easily rate David Brooks in my top 3… and here’s why:

Brooks was obviously highly intelligent, yet he was able to communicate complex ideas to the audience in a way that was very easy to understand. Also, I took note that he seemed to carry an air of humility that seemed to simultaneously engage the audience and put them at ease.

As a communicator I give him a 10. His thoughts were well reasoned, well articulated, and easily held the attention of our audience throughout the entirety of his lecture. Personally, I was hanging on every word… just waiting to hear where he would take the audience next.

Brooks effortlessly pivoted between a very wide variety of issues, from current U.S. politics and the current Obama Presidency, to Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan, to his life experiences in the world of journalism (laced with humorous anecdotes and wonderful personal "behind the scenes" stories), to the state of journalism in the U.S., to major league baseball, and the list just goes on. He shined during his lecture and maybe even more during the Q&A.

I think our audience especially appreciated Mr. Brooks’ stories of his interviews with people like Sen. Biden and Pres. Obama, and a particular story which involved President G.W. Bush, which took place in the Oval Office. Brooks seemed willing to share much more in terms of inside stories than most speakers I can recall… and our subscribers just loved it. He spoke candidly about the politicians he’s observed/interviewed over the years and was unafraid to share his opinions on political matters… all the while, not seeming to "ruffle" anyone’s feathers.

On a personal note, Brooks was an absolute pleasure to work with. He was very engaging with students at [...] University and with the Dinner and Post Reception guests later in the evening. I’ve been told that dinner was "excellent"… and everyone seemed to have a great time.

We are already looking forward to working with him again next season (in our other 3 cities).

A national association:
On behalf of [our association], I would like to express our sincere gratitude for your participation and support of our 53rd Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. The time, energy and dedication you provided played an integral role in making this meeting a tremendous success!

How lucky we were to have you present your thoughts on what lies ahead in this new administration the day after your dinner with then President-elect Obama. You provided a great ending to our annual meeting with your keen insights and observations.

An arts society:
David was not only intelligent and thoughtful, but also witty, engaging and entertaining. He is winsome and completely without bombast on the platform — so likeable that one audience member, in the Q & A, asked the fawning question, "When are you going to run for office?" The standing-room-only audience loved him, and I have received several calls praising his lecture.

He was a good guest, and a gentleman. He was tolerant and polite to the bores (and occasional boors) whom one inevitably encounters on a trip like his. He graciously endured a luncheon given by the sponsor of his lecture. He was unfailingly polite and gracious — not a prima donna.

In short, he exceeded expectations and won many friends and admirers here.

A major public forum:
David Brooks did a phenomenal job last night. I am still receiving so much praise, folks letting us know what a wonderful evening it was. So thanks so much. I’m looking forward to working with you on future endeavors.

A college preparatory school:
His speech was extraordinarily well received. I gather that most folks feel that it was the best such talk that anyone at [...] can recall. It accomplished everything that the school had hoped — and then some.

A social service organization:
Dear David — Each year our MENTOR’s most generous benefactors and counselors gather for [an annual dinner]. And, each year we have a spectacular speaker.

But, this year, our conversation with you exceeded all expectations and, as you could undoubtedly tell, our expectations for you were quite high. Not only did you exceed them in every respect, but we’ve decided that if we had our druthers, you’d be our annual speaker into perpetuity.

A local government commission:
Dear David — On behalf on the city of [...] and its Speaker Series Commission I want to thank you for your generous participation in our community program.

Your brilliance, wit, candor and knowledge were immediately apparent to our audience and your speech and observations were most beneficial and enlightening!

A branding conference:
Dear David — My heartfelt appreciation for your contribution to [our brand conference] this year. It was a great success, and clearly your presentation was a big part of it. For example, participants' evaluation sheets tell us they loved you and the conference:

  • On a scale of 1-10, on average they gave your presentation an 9.8. (Congratulations!)
  • When asked "based on your experience here, how likely is it that you'd recommend [our conference] to a colleague," the average score was 9 on a 10 point scale.

Thank you. Thank you! You'll also enjoy these direct quotes from evaluation sheets:

  • Very relevant, very impressive conference. Great depth.
  • Wonderfully relevant. A wealth of thought provoking content.
  • Excellent program. Thought provoking. Made me think. Good pacing. Loved it.
  • What an amazing amount of learning at one place in a short period of time.
  • Good thought provoking experience. Very well administered.
  • Great cross section of notable speakers providing attendees with in dept examination of topic
  • I walked away with several thoughts I can't wait to apply. I can already see huge opportunities.
  • Hope was for 6-10 big ideas I can use right away. Got'em.
  • One of the few conferences with an abundance of actionable insights.
  • Concentrated content. Smooth organization.
  • First class conference that delivered on the promise of new info presented for higher level individuals.

We hope you were as proud to be a part of [...] as we were to have you with us. Thanks again for your time and effort.

A national advertising agency and brand consultancy:
I couldn't have hoped for a more perfect presentation from him, or better close to the conference. He gave the kind of information I was hoping for, he did it with great humor, and warmth and humanity — and it was just fantastic.

A health care industry association:
Connected beautifully with the audience, understood the audience, charismatic and high energy. From another - presented a fantastic, non-partisan view, most palatable explanation for Bush policy he has ever heard.

A large Jewish community center:
Wow! He was great. He is funny and charming and bright and just about anything we could ask for in a speaker. Thanks for all you help. It was a great success. 10 out of 10!

A university audience:
Brooks was fantastic! in every way, shape and form. He was just wonderful. Great with McCormick Society members the night before. Generous with his thoughts and kind with the people who made the lecture possible. He gave a brilliant address and also even did an interview with the local NPR station. Warmest possible praise. We feel honored that he came and his remarks will be published in our law review.

A World Affairs Council:
David Brooks was terrific! It was such a pleasure to meet and talk with him. Our sponsors were also delighted. Tell him [the sponsor] gave him an 11 on a scale of 1 - 10! Ditto for me.

An academic institute:
Everything went extremely well. David was very affable and pleasant. His lecture was a perfect end to our day-long discussion of "Community." I can, without reservation, say that it was a joy and a pleasure to work with you and David Brooks. I look forward to contacting you on future projects!

A regional economic development organization:
The luncheon was fabulous! David Brooks was a hit! We received such good feedback. His book signings were a hit also — several books were sold and he was busy signing after the luncheon. Thanks for all your help.

A major institute-sponsored forum:
The whole event went splendidly, particularly David Brooks' keynote speech, which was pitch-perfect and tremendously witty. I'm looking forward to getting the DVD of it from the local TV folks.

It was particularly fun to listen to Mr. Brooks face off against Thomas Frank and Arianna Huffington on the topic of the culture wars. All smart folks... (hum, I almost feel guilty for the understatement).

Thanks again for managing Mr. Brooks' visit so very smoothly.

A metropolitan council:
Great report from the customer, [...]: "He was outstanding and the audience was enthralled with his comments. He linked his book "On Paradise Drive" to the geography of the Twin Cities, he offered great insight and nailed many of the issues confronting Minneapolis and the surrounding suburbs."

A college class:
The audience received it very well on the whole and was pleased to have him. We had a very big audience for this type event — about 550, the best of the series he was part of.

David was personable and generous, and I was grateful that he joined the class. The remarks were funny and in many ways thoughtful [...] I am grateful for the kind of discourse he models.

Thanks for the help putting this together.

A state commission for postsecondary education:
Dear Mr. Brooks,

[Our entire] Educational Community continues to “buzz” regarding your presentation last Thursday. Your comments were all that I hoped; and the impact remains. I have participated in many conversations since your visit where the concept of human capital is a central point.

I appreciate your time and hope your stadium tour was a great success. Thank you for moving the conversation forward.

Articles

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At some point over the past generation, people around the world entered what you might call the age of possibility. They became intolerant of any arrangement that might close off their personal options.

— The New York Times