book hack

The Social Animal

David Brooks

5 mins

3 key insights

Visual, audio & text

The Social Animal weaves social science research into the story of a fictional couple to shed light on the decision-making power of our unconscious minds.


The Social Animal

The Social Animal

by David Brooks


New York Times columnist David Brooks loves blending fiction and non-fiction. In this book, he does so by creating fulfilling lives for an imaginary couple, Harold and Erica. As the author explores his characters' life trajectories, he references scientific studies that relate to their development and outcomes.

Harold and Erica are raised in different family structures. Their socio-economic and educational backgrounds differ, and yet, they share a number of character traits. Both are honest and dependable. Each overcomes life's inevitable hurdles by recognizing their weaknesses and persisting after setbacks. Harold and Erica are thoughtful, empathetic, and possess wisdom we can't learn in any classroom.

What shaped and led them to thrive? Our unconscious mind guides much of our behavior. In The Social Animal, we learn how Harold and Erica shaped theirs to develop a powerful combination of healthy character traits and street smarts.

Favorite quote

People who succeed tend to find one goal in the distant future and then chase it through thick and thin. School asks students to be good at a range of different subjects, but life asks people to find one passion that they will follow forever.

- David Brooks

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