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The Second Mountain

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  5,855 ratings  ·  916 reviews
In The Second Mountain, David Brooks explores the four commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose: to a spouse and family, to a vocation, to a philosophy or faith, and to a community. Our personal fulfillment depends on how well we choose and execute these commitments. In The Second Mountain, Brooks looks at a range of people who have lived joyous, committed liv ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 16th 2019 by Random House (first published 2019)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  5,855 ratings  ·  916 reviews

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Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You know what? Nobody can get under my skin like David Brooks. I read all his columns and some of them are just absolutely ridiculous and out of touch. But unlike people like Bret Stephens or other conservatives, I keep coming back to Brooks because once in a while, he can hit it out of the park. This book is the best of Brooks--it's wise and humble and thoughtful. It's sort of a self-help/memoir. I thought some of the parts were weird and I don't agree with him on some things, but I really enjo ...more
Gail C.
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
THE SECOND MOUNTAIN by David Brooks is a complex book that is part philosophy, part personal disclosure, and part research. It serves as an excellent source to challenge the reader’s thinking about a variety of subjects including religion, marriage, social responsibility and personal growth. It is a book that requires a great deal of thought to absorb what is being said and to time for introspection to ascertain personal reactions. For this reason, I found it easiest to read a section and then ...more
Clif Hostetler
Part memoir, part manifesto, and part literature review—this book provides a multifaceted exploration of ways toward achieving a life with purpose and meaning. According to this book the current emphasis in our culture to be hyper-individualistic—focused on the self, achievement, reputation and personal goals—is destructive to the human spirit. Brooks perceives a need to become more “relationalist … where relation, commitment, and the desires of the heart and soul” bring meaning and purpose.

May 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
I believe that many people will find wisdom in this book, but I am afraid that I found it irritating from page one. It seems to me that the point of the book is that a life of service is satisfying. It is. But Mr. Brooks writes in a high handed, preachy manner as though he were a psychologist, respected philosopher, or clergy, making statements throughout that are to be taken as fact: "The soul is....."and he goes on to define it. The nuns that taught my childhood religious instruction classes d ...more
Keegan Swenson
May 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
Milquetoast divorced middle-aged dude pedals pseudo intellectual garbage. Yawn.
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
While I have given the book 5 stars, I have to say it is not as consistently good as this would indicate. Part 1, in which Brooks explains the "two mountain" metaphor, is worth 5 stars by itself. Combining the wisdom of many teachers (including Richard Rohr, James Hollis, Gerald May, Robert Bellah, Robert Putnam, many others), he describes how everyone builds two mountains, the first, to build identity and discover ourselves but often driven by the ego, and the second, after failure, tragedy, or ...more
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
After reading the book one might be left with the impression one has when someone describes how they found God and how that pulled them out of depression, anxiety, lethargy or some other predicament. No one would want to tell somebody to abandon a belief that had such beneficial effects, but a personal experience is just that—personal. Whether it translates from one person to another is highly doubtful.

So while I admire Brooks’ bravery in writing such a counter-cultural work, I have to conclude
Florence Millo
May 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book but it mostly irritated me. I found it preachy and stereotypical. He overthinks and drones on and on. I have to confess that I just couldn’t bring myself to wade through it to the end.
Greg Bae
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, bae-ovation
The smug journalist I remember from the NYT writes a surprisingly vulnerable and personal book about how to live a life of joy. The premise is that people climb their first mountain in life and that looks like career success or a life accomplishment based on what makes them happy. Then something in their life happens to make that happiness go away. So in order to climb the second mountain, people must align to a principled life of the four commitments: vocation, marriage, philosophy and communit ...more
Lynne Spreen
The Second Mountain is a book stuffed with anecdotes, quotes, aphorisms, and generalizations. While I don't doubt the sincerity of the author, I couldn't learn from what I read. It was too vague, somewhat directionless. If there are 500 ways to find your path or succeed or find happiness or serve humanity, and you want to write a book about all of it, you'll need to narrow the focus, because otherwise, it's just too much information. I couldn't find threads or draw conclusions. I wasn't compelle ...more
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Terrific book on living a meaningful life. Many of my fellow liberals do a lot of eye-rolling at Brooks' NYT columns, but I've always found him really thoughtful and interesting, even if I disagree with him. He has a unique life story, and he opens up in a very vulnerable, humble way in this book. I enjoyed the many examples of amazing people doing extraordinary things to help others and live full, charitable, and meaningful lives. Brooks advocates connecting with others, building community, and ...more
Carol Storm
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
Dozens of feel-good stories about real-life people making a difference, and dozens of inspiring quotes from moral heavyweights like Viktor Frankl and C.S. Lewis. But David Brooks comes across as just another scam artist working a racket. The thesis of the book, that "hyper-individualism" is bad and "community" is good comes across as unbelievably shallow and hypocritical. If you've ever read War & Peace, this book is like watching Prince Vassily pretending to be Prince Andrey.

Where's Dolohov wh
Gayle Fleming
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have never read a book by David Brooks until now. But i have read his NYTs column and watched his thoughtful conservative commentary on PBS News Hour for years. It was on the PBS News Hour that I heard him being interviewed about this book. His passionate description of the book was what caused me to buy it on the spot.

He actually tackles a lot in this book. But it ultimately boils down to the cult of the individual versus the building of community. The first mountain is the ego driven, indiv
Aligermaa Tse
May 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
Started this book around the same time I watched the movie adaptation of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. One could say these two are almost the polar opposites. The Second Mountain focuses on conservative community thinking and interdependence whereas Atlas Shrugged is considered as individualist’s ultimate favorite. It is quite interesting to compare the striking difference in their opinions, both seem to have valid points. Half-way through the book, I was quite convinced this was not my cup of tea ...more
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
The rise of individualism has created a range of societal and personal problems, which many people will try to overcome by pursuing material success and hapiness. However, the real road to fulfillment leads to a life of service to other people, which can be practiced through our vocations, marriages, religions and/or the tasks of community building.
Jun 22, 2019 rated it liked it
I liked it at first, which I believe was the most powerful part, but then it sort of turned into elitist navel gazing that demands a certain level of privilege to have any context at all. Could probably have been a long form essay rather than a book, tbh. I well appreciate his warning against living a merely aesthetic life, which is tempting in DC, but his discussion of community basically turned into the “invite people over for dinner” ethos. I agree there is a higher calling, a responsibility ...more
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Rather than hyper-individualism—or its toxic byproduct, tribalism—Brooks calls us to an interdependent life characterized by a commitment to community, creed, morals, and a generally outward-focused life. I can’t begin to describe how many times I was nodding and audibly saying, “Yes!” through this book.
Bridget Kiersten
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I actually liked it. The concept is great, but it's ultimately a disappointment for me. I found the marriage section to be the most painful/exhausting and the first section, which focuses on the concept of the second mountain itself, to be the most valuable. I think I thought this book would be less about generalized drivel and more about the actual people in his social weave project and the components that make these people different from the general p ...more
Yvonne S
May 14, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Turned off. Abandoned after the first couple of chapters.
Jan 06, 2021 rated it did not like it
Abandoned because it's the pompous wannabe-intellectual drivel of a sanctimonious milquetoast. I could not finish this book and skimmed most of what little I could stomach (though I gotta admit, his style is, as always, easily digestible ((milquetoast!)), but I repeat myself) and I dislike the experience enough to pass judgment on it.

Ostensibly, David Brooks's The Second Mountain "explores the four commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose: to a spouse and family, to a vocation, to a
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club-picks
Having read The Social Animal when it was released and followed David Brooks since then, I was excited to read this book. I opened the cover willing to surrender to the newfound wisdom it might reveal and prepared to entertain any idealogical shifts it might imbue. Suffice to say, I feel neither wiser nor ideologically shifted after finishing The Second Mountain.

The book's introduction is brimming with promise, such that it actually exacerbated the disappointment of the remainder of the book. D
Verity Payne
The usual windy drivel by one of America's biggest moral hypocrites. Naturally, it's full of the sort of self-serving justifications he uses for his own vile amorality in callously abandoning his long-time wife for a younger woman, then chastising her in the pages of the New York Times, no less, for not taking his abuse with "dignity". He even went so far as to imply she was stalking him, smirked about her desperate love for him, bragged about how much pain he was causing her, and, in a staggeri ...more
Katybeth Lee
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Loved his oped that summarized the main concept, with which I whole heartedly agree. Hated the full length version (book) which I found preachy and boring.
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book has gems in it, and it is strongest when it quotes other thinkers. I read a few of his articles and his white man-ness is off putting; but I appreciate what he is doing here, and can just hope others of his bent, of his moderate conservatism read this and have epiphanies of joy and then realized the errors of their ways. His personal stories were white man this, white man that also, and not sure who can relate to him, but his intention was to promote his endeavors in community building ...more
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Maybe David Brooks thought he was writing the book to end all books, the comprehensive manual to our times complete with a (really helpful) manifesto at the end. If so, he pretty much succeeded in diagnosing the problem and then offering a comprehensive solution including stellar examples of this solution in practice (something the non fiction books I read rarely offer). But it’s not a perfect book. As another reviewer put it, it sometimes feels like more than one book. Nonetheless, it’s a compa ...more
His basic thesis is we’ve overdone our emphasis on individualism and need to get back to community. But he takes several detours along the way.

I was initially turned off at the beginning, with a section that felt like self-help. I would have ditched it if it’d all been like the beginning. But Brooks eventually makes his main points. Throughout the book he side steps into community service, some autobiography, marriage advice, religion, faith, and just plain randomness. It felt like someone gave
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Interesting and insightful at times. I finished this book with a few takeaways in regards to both relationships and community. I will note that I found myself skimming certain sections that did not pique my interest as much as others. I think I expected something a bit different and didn't quite hit that mark. ...more
Adam Shields
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was somewhat reluctant to pick The Second Mountain up. I watched several interviews with him and many those interviews were interesting, but they seemed like they were talking about a couple different books, they range from personal self help book, to ‘an extended graduation speech’, to a version of Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward. Having finished the book, I understand all of those descriptions, but none of them were quite right. And while I am glad I read the book, I do think that is part of t ...more
🌍 Marian
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lydbok
"I do no longer believe that the cultural and moral structures of our society are fine and all we have to do is fix ourselves individually. Over the past few years, as a result of personal, national and global events I have become radicalized. I now think the rampant individualism of our culture is a catastrophe. The emphasis on self, individual success, self fulfillment, individual freedom, self actualization is a catastrophe. I now think that living a good life requires a much vaster transform ...more
Kristen Freiburger
Jan 23, 2020 rated it liked it
I was disappointed with this one. I’d read great things online and had also saw several of his interviews regarding this title. It seems like he took everyone else’s data/ideas, mashed it together and slapped his name on the front cover. Nothing new here!
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Winona Public Lib...: June 2020 Book Discussion: The Second Mountain 1 1 May 26, 2020 01:08PM  
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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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