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Reviews for The Second Mountain

by David Brooks

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In a time when hyperindividualism is the norm, bestselling conservative columnist Brooks (The Road to Character, 2015) presents a divergent outlook. Brooks' concept is simple. Most people live life on their first mountain, seeking personal growth and success. But attempting to summit the second proverbial mountain by focusing on others instead of ourselves, he asserts, will lead us to more fulfilled, joyous lives. Brooks provides historical context for how we strayed from a community-focused society to make the drastic leap to hyperindividualism before he delves into the tenets of his manifesto. His four commitments include dedication to family, a vocation, a philosophy or religion, and a community. His argument can be daunting, partly due to length but also because of the weighty examples Brooks provides it is difficult to picture ourselves striving to live our lives like Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Theresa. But if readers can approach Brooks' core message with an open mind, potentially life-changing lessons can be found in this relevant and thought-provoking book.--Patricia Smith Copyright 2019 Booklist

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The popular New York Times columnist propels himself through another heartfelt, earnest pilgrimage toward self-awakening and commitment.Deeply concerned about the breakdown in civil discourse and the terrible compromises that successful peopleespecially politiciansmake in their careers, Brooks (The Road to Character, 2015, etc.) elucidates another way to live, what he calls the Second Mountain. The first mountain is what people of his well-educated, affluent milieu climb to gain good jobs, recognition, money, and successdoing what our society expects us to do. While some people reach the top, they might find it "unsatisfying." Others fall away and fail, for whatever reason, and spend time suffering in the valley, which is where Brooks finds the truly interesting stories. "The people who have been made larger by suffering are brave enough to let parts of their old self die," he writes. "Down in the valley, their motivations changed. They've gone from self-centered to other-centered." Brooks uses innumerable examples of people who have suffered in this profoundly disappointing wilderness and been made stronger in their sense of purpose. These include historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Leo Tolstoy as well as the author's friends and acquaintances. Indeed, Brooks uses his own experience of being broken by the dissolution of his marriage of 27 years and his embrace of Christianity (he was raised in a Jewish household) and eventual remarriage to a younger woman who acted as his research assistant and spiritual guide. Essentially, he sets out to create a blueprint for moral transformation by eschewing the hyperindividualism we are taught to champion as children and which, he concludes via social data, leads only to loneliness, distrust of institutions, loss of purpose, and tribalism. Instead, we must open ourselves to family, community, and religious commitments. Brooks is a heart-on-his-sleeve writer, and his language is not terribly profound, but his message is accessible and inclusive.A thoughtful work that offers an uplifting message to those struggling in the wilderness of career and existential challenge. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.