The Social Animal by David Brooks

If you want good change in perspective or are looking to  simplify your view on life, look no further, this book will help. 

The Social Animal follows the lives of the imaginary Erica and Harold. As it creates an interesting yet typical life story, the book explains grand concepts of sociology from the cultural influences to the desperate need for human contact. At the core of the book is the idea that we are guided by our subconscious, and as it does much more work on average than our conscience, it should be listened to more intently instead of being fought. It is self-discovering to become more in touch with the signals the subconscious has so carefully decided on and constructed.

Some of the ideas that caught my attention:
  • People are so drawn to familiarity that they’re even likely to pick a job that starts with the same letter as their name.
  • Different things in our lives send different “pings” of feelings that collect together in our subconscious to create an opinion.
  • The human desire for thumos (recognition and union) underlays the drive for money and success.
  • People who are “accordantly attached” have grown up not relying on the constant company of others, usually parents, and have trouble attaching emotions as grown ups.

Overall, it’s hard to describe what this book’s theme truly is. On one hand, you have your nonfiction information on human behavior, but on the other, you have the stories of a few somewhat ordinary yet different people.  Both can be great contemplative material.