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Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  4,001 ratings  ·  419 reviews
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, Br ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 6th 2001 by Simon Schuster (first published 2000)
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Average rating 3.62  · 
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Jason
Jul 19, 2007 rated it liked it
David Brooks is, for lack of a better term, David Brooks. He has two schticks. First is conservative politics presented in a manner palatable to the readership of The New York Times and the viewers of the PBS News Hour. Second is pop anthropological commentary on perceived cultural phenomena. Bobos in Paradise falls into the latter category. "Bobo", a long common term in French of identical meaning, is hipspeak for bourgeois bohemian -- liberals with $$$ and status. The problem, however, is that ...more
Katie
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
I came back to review this book because my friend and I were talking about it at work the other day. The book IS funny, but I disagree with Brooks’ summary and endnote that this new “Bourgeois Bohemian” establishment is somehow any better than the upper/middle classes of previous generations. Okay, so they buy sustainably made bamboo furniture. This doesn’t make them any better than the elites of other generations—in fact, I would argue that it makes them worse. Whereas the previous generation m ...more
GoldGato
Nov 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Putin
Dionysius, the god of abandon, has been reconciled with Prometheus, the god of work.

That sentence aptly describes the Bobo. What, you may ask, is a Bobo? A Bourgeois Bohemian. In essence, they are the New Establishment, having replaced the pure Yuppies who replaced the pure Hippies who replaced the Beats who replaced the Old Establishment. Bobo.

Lady Chatterley's lover becomes Lady Chatterley's empowerment counselor.

You might know a Bobo. Perhaps, you are one yourself. They tend to cluster in urb
...more
Beth
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
Basically? OH SHUT UP, David Brooks. I wanted it to be good. In fact, it was a rather smug field guide; nothing revelatory, no meaningful/mature analysis. You might as well re-read The Official Preppie Handbook.
leighcia
Aug 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Though it’s not necessary to read the whole book, the introduction and opening chapters provide a good characterization of my generation and my social class. Brooks describes today’s new upper class—the Bobos—Bourgeois Bohemians. While earlier in the 20th century and before, the bourgeois and bohemians existed in separate social and economic circles (the bourgeois dominating with “old money” and all the financial resources, the bohemian artists gathering in their coffeeshops and run-down neighbo ...more
Liz Wright
May 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I don’t think it’s possible for me to write down everything I think about this book into one review. I think the review would end up being as long as the book. I will try to hit the main points of my impressions without going on for too long though.
My first thought is that Brooks’ description of bobo (bohemian and bourgeoisie) culture and behavior is highly entertaining and right on target. I’ve known many people like this (and would myself be classified as a bobo) and can see them and myself i
...more
Emilia P
Feb 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: real-books
My feelings on this book are mixed, though I think I maintain my affection for David Brooks. He explores the culture of bourgeois bohemianism and it's implications for our society in terms of things like business, intellectual culture, play, politics, and spiritual life. I do, in many ways, feel like a product of the society where intellect is a marketable, capitalism is about choice and social consciousness and creativity (on the surface at least), and questioning authority is mandatory. I gues ...more
Izlinda
Aug 10, 2008 rated it liked it
I'm stuck between a 3.5 and a four for this, but decided to round down. (Bad math, I know.)

Put into context, this is a required reading for my Introduction to Sociology course. While I'm glad not to read a textbook full of stodgy statistics and all, this book started to get on my nerves near the end.

Brooks is an editor/writer for several papers, I believe (at least at the time of printing) so his book does generally read like a collection of articles instead of a continuous book. His tone is ind
...more
Vincent
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really there is no better observer of American culture right now than David Brooks. He is so damn critical of our collective lameness and this book is well worth it.
It had been on my to-read list for a while: there are many pop culture references to "bobos" and I wanted to know more about the definition.
Bobos are a combination of overly-paid upper middle class elitists who like to act like they are crunchy and down to earth and anything but elite.
What makes it funny is the inconsistency of that
...more
Alex
Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: the year 2000
Shelves: 2014
There's a half-decent New Yorker article in here...and then pages upon pages of padding. The chapter on "Intellectual Life" is nothing more than a procession of easy jokes about talking heads; "Spiritual Life" contains no mention, bizarrely, of the concept of atheism; and "Politics" reminds one painfully that this book was written at the tail end of Clinton's administration, before GW Bush ended the concept of everyone getting along. If you like jokes about Restoration Hardware, by all means, re ...more
Mark
Nov 25, 2012 rated it liked it
I read Bobos in Paradise because I like David Brooks' columns and I really enjoyed "The Social Animal."

The title is a nod to what Brooks describes as the merging (or rather reconciliation) of Bourgeois with Bohemian cultural values and ways of living and how this reconciliation has transformed middle class culture within the U.S. In fact, he invents the word "Bobos" to label this new educated class of people who embrace key components of both cultural forces that seemed irreconcilable not so lo
...more
Todd
Nov 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology
This is a seductive story about the 1990's middle class and upper middle class. Reading it and following his argument hearkens back to the dream of the 90's. Even when David Brooks is lightly critiquing his bourgeoisie bohemians and his bohemian bourgeoisie, he still paints them and their lifestyle in an overall flattering light. At times it was also a fun read; you can imagine Brooks penning the scenes of the Bobos and their paradise tongue squarely in cheek and nodding slightly in appreciation ...more
Michael
Apr 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My harsh critique (and this book doesn’t deserve harsh; it’s good, fun, and interesting) is that this is an Atlantic or New Yorker or Vanity Fair article that was expanded into a book. When I got to the end and read the acknowledgements, it turns out I was right. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. However, his unifying theme is really not supported by what he writes about.

Regardless, the parts are still very fun and well written. The individual chapters make internally logical sense but I don’t se
...more
Justine
Mar 22, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: library
Brooks' work of "comic sociology" is essentially a grown-up, much better researched version of my favorite blog "Stuff White People Like." Unlike the blog, it uses a loose historical basis that is semi-rigorously researched and has a general theory that it espouses. Like the blog, it is hilarious.

Brooks himself is a bobo (read, bourgeois bohemian, or the new class of privilege that got here by working hard and being smart rather than being entitled (such as the old WASPS)) so by the golden rule
...more
Phil Sageser
Jan 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Much of this reads like Dave Barry making fun of the Bohemian Bourgeoisie, or Bobos, that he is describing as the "new establishment. But just as we're having fun, it shifts to serious social commentary. While there's much to agree with (Brooks is my favorite "conservative"), his analysis is dated. He describes an America which is becoming increasingly middle of the road, which it may have been in 2000, but is clearly not the case today. ...more
Anita
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
yeah i mean the thing is, David Brooks is a good writer and funny and in many parts painfully accurate about my life goals and consumption habits, and even if i don't like his end-of-the-day warning that Lacking Real Authentic Patriotism, America Will Fall Apart, the guy has got real talent writing self-loathing comedy. ...more
Alex Feinberg
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
A pleasant read, but too full of cliches to be meaningful. A great deal of unverifiable conclusions coupled with an overall feel that I am reading a hard-copy of http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/. This is a shame, as the topic deserves an accessible, but more serious and academic study. ...more
James
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Really a very lightweight read with amusing anecdotes, but the basic premise, that there's a new upper class, is not proven in any way. It doesn't age well either, being written just before the various crashes and the Bush presidency. ...more
Alex
Jan 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
For years, there’s been a sense that the upper middle class has ruined everything that’s remotely cool: Woodstock spirit has given way to accountants spending thousands to paint microplastics on their face at Coachella, while artist lofts are now inhabited by graphic designers and advertisers seeking a minimalist space to tap away at their MacBooks. But David Brooks is right, the bohemians have sold out, too. Those that would’ve previously outright rebelled against their parents’ professions and ...more
Luke
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Pretty uneven and dated. At times very funny but often a little boring and no longer relevant/true, and this is coming from someone who likes David Brooks' columns. A pre-2001 perspective. ...more
R.J. Gilmour
Feb 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Just finished David Brooks' Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How they Got There (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000). Brooks, a self-identified bobo acting as an anthropologist and sociologist with a sense of humour tries to define the new educated class that he calls BoBos. "The member of the new information age elite are bourgeois bohemian. Or, to take the first two letters of each word, they are Bobos." (11) The term is a combination of two terms and groups that traditionally have sa ...more
James
Oct 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
David Brooks is a fine writer. I have always enjoyed his articles in the Weekly Standard, the Atlantic Monthly, and currently his column in the New York Times. He is a whimsical observer of American life. His writing has an inductive quality about it. He writes about slate shower stalls, cappuccino bars, eco-tourism, and the like. Pretty soon he has painted a landscape of American cultural trends. In the introduction of "Bobos in Paradise," Brooks describes his method: "The idea is to get at the ...more
Cole Nielson
Bobos in Paradise is a ethnography, a study of a small population of the United States. Here, Brooks focuses on our elites, our ruling class: the Bobos. They are the top 10% of our country. They run this country, they are our intellectual class. This is a study of them and how they got there.

He relates to Marx's Communist Manifesto, and says that America initially had two classes: The Bourgeois and the Bohemians, the 50's and the 60's, the soldiers and the hippies, the Republicans and the Democ
...more
Blyden
Aug 14, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The central thesis is that a new "class" exist in the US that is a synthesis of the old BOurgeois (establishment) and BOhemian (anti-establishment) "classes" (Bo+Bo=Bobo) and that this new, relatively small class is THE class that sets the societal rules & values defining contemporary US culture. Their ascent is attributed to the importance of highly educated persons in the modern economy. Brooks looks at the patterns of consumption (e.g. "the creation of Latte Towns"), the business culture and ...more
Jackie
Dec 08, 2010 rated it liked it
I can't help it; I love myself some David Brooks, and this book is no exception. Bobos in Paradise was written a decade ago, so some of the trends Brooks notes here have long since ceased being trends and are firmly established in the mainstream, but no matter -- it's still a fun, breezy read.

I haven't read this in a few years, but I still remember the opening descriptions of the New York Times wedding announcements -- pages that profile the glittery overachievers who attended the right schools
...more
Alex Zakharov
Dec 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
A perfect read for a cross-country flight, "Bobos in Paradise" is a very Tom Wolfian analysis of today's elite and its incessant struggle to reconcile ambitions of the bourgeoisie and artistic tendencies of the bohemia. Brooks shows how starting in the late 50s the US transition from aristocracy to meritocracy brought about a new 'class' - Bobos who seem to be living in a state of constant cognitive dissonance nicely manifested in their consumption patterns, intellectual life, politics, business ...more
Kate
Jun 30, 2010 marked it as to-read
I haven't even bought this book yet, and I already have 2 issues with it:
1. Though the subtitle says "Upper Class" the people he's describing are clearly Upper-Middle Class. From the Amazon review: "...driving their immaculate SUVs to Pottery Barn to shop for $48 titanium spatulas." Upper class people have drivers, don't shop at Pottery Barn, and let their domestic staff buy the spatulas.
2. From the back cover (as seen on Amazon): "... David Brooks coins a new word, Bobo, to describe today's up
...more
Patrick O'Hannigan
Brooks can be funny and he does know how to turn a phrase, but ultimately he's writing about something that had a shelf life of no longer than eight years; I don't think his generalizations about Volvo-driving latte-sippers hold up very well. Of course, it's tough to write about the class of which you're part (and Tom Wolfe, Brooks isn't).

The other handicap that this amusing book suffers from is that its dominant note is one of millennial complacency. Events since 2000 have torpedoed that minds
...more
Fredrik deBoer
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
On the one hand, it's David Brooks, right? But on the other hand, he has this one observation and it's a good one: that not all hippies became yuppies, but rather kept their counter-cultural self-definition while continuing to climb the ladder of success, and thus became bourgeois bohemians, or Bobos. (It is not entirely clear to me if the distinction between yuppies and Bobos works, or if this is just a rebranding for the purpose of telling the story Brooks wants to tell, but oh well.) Brooks t ...more
Joel
Jul 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Brooks seems to be writing an autobiographical account of himself and his peers. His book gives us a glimpse into the latitudinarian attitudes of the middle and upper classes in America, along with their somewhat ridiculous commitment to being "authentic." The book is a bit dated now as it was written before 9/11, the cancerous growth of the Security State and the mortgage-driven economic collapse of 2008. Nevertheless, the social mores he describes mostly hold steady today: fear of commitment, ...more
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David Brooks is a political and cultural commentator. He is currently a columnist for The New York Times and a commentator on PBS NewsHour. He has previously worked for Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, Newsweek, The Atlantic Monthly and National Public Radio.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

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  Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things...
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“Self-actualization is what educated existence is all about. For members of the educated class, life is one long graduate school. When they die, God meets them at the gates of heaven, totes up how many fields of self-expression they have mastered, and then hands them a divine diploma and lets them in.” 30 likes
“You can't really know God if you ignore his laws, especially the ones that regulate the most intimate spheres of life. You may be responsible and healthy, but you will also be shallow and inconsequential.” 5 likes
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