Read this a looong time ago….dusted it off yesterday and considered having a brief run through again. Then I saw how many pages it has and decided to eat a dessert instead. That had it’s own consequences.

New York Times columnist Brooks looks at how social interactions and your subconscious mind affect chances of success regardless of economic background. He makes it less clinical by using a fictional couple: Harold, a middle class American white guy – and Erica, daughter of Chinese-Mexican immigrants. It’s not a love story. If it was, it wouldn’t be convincing, the characters aren’t believable enough although they serve their purpose. They lack dimension but I guess Brooks doesn’t care about that. They are like characters your teacher makes up to explain your worked example. He might as well have called them Jack and Jill. 

While the ideas aren’t new, they are presented from a thought-provoking angle. How do good looks impact your schooling?

He follows the pair from birth to last days so that by the end you feel you know them- or at least you know their archetype. It’s generally quite a positive narrative. You get the impression you are seeing the hidden side of a relationship that’s perfect from the outside, witnessing whatever dramas they have. Maybe that was the issue, Brooks needed to level up the drama. Give me Desperate Housewives.

The pair are very different from each other, which makes them ideal for anecdotal evidence, if not a little contrived.

Questionable story telling aside- it isn’t the point of the book anyway- It’s still an enjoyable read. While the ideas aren’t new, they are presented from a thought-provoking angle. How do good looks impact your schooling? When do emotions matter more than pure reason? You see where this is going- This is some Malcolm Gladwell shit. If you like Malcolm Gladwell, you’ll probably like this. Also see Freakonomics

The book does well to  include the human element usually omitted when charting someone’s success. The character, culture, the psychological development, IQ and interestingly, emotions  and sexuality are all given weighting along with the stats/research held

Perhaps the most important takeaway is the evidence that the power to forge your own path and success is mostly with yourself. Not entirely true but true to a degree.

It is very engaging and simply written – so although the material may be fodder for a sociology or psychology thesis, someone like me who only had a general interest- or just liked the cover could just as easily pick it up.

The Social Animal was current for the time, with more than a few pop culture references. Obama and even Arcade Fire get a mention. More importantly, Brook’s writing flair puts this book a cut above the rest of the popular science stack. 

It’s a casual insight o the social, cultural ,moral and even genetic underlyings of success (whatever that is) . It’s also inspirational from Erica’s perspective. Where Brooks falls short is that I’m not sure there is much here anyone has never heard of but it does what its supposed- make you look with fresh eyes 

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