The Throwback Thursday Books: The Social Animal


I signed up to recently to get some book recommendations and also cry about how much I’ve spent on Amazon in life.

The website imports books from your history, requesting that you review and rate them. I realised that in some cases, I couldn’t clearly remember every detail about a book but I could easily remember whether I was impressed by it or not and also how it made me feel. Looking at some of these book covers, I could even remember where I was as a person but that’s not what this is about. We’d need a long evening for that

Sooooo… I’m going to play a little memory game and post a review one of the books on my already read list bi-weekly on a Thursday. Life and time permitting, I will try weekly first….all I can promise is that it will be a Thursday when I do these throwback posts!

These reviews will be a lot quicker my reviews of books I’m reading currently- because to be honest, I’m just not going to remember what I thought of the juxtapositions and metaphors used in Are You There God? It’s Me, Mary (or the Diary of Adrian Mole). Don’t worry; I’m not going to go that far back! Also, I’m going to cheat a bit and flick through them for half an hour to jog my memory first.

Hopefully I’ll dig up some books you’d like to read- or let me know what you thought when you read them. Here’s the first one……


Title: The Social Animal By: David Brooks

When did you read it? 2011, I was coming to the end of the term at my first real job in the city’s financial quarter. I was, at that point becoming more interested in business and what success means, so was reading a lot of books like this.

 Remember it being good or bad? I remember this being a very eye- opening, interesting read; I really enjoyed it. So did the New York Times bestseller list where it lived at No 1 for a while.

What’s it about?  Brooks looks at how human behaviours and social interactions affect their chances of success regardless of their economic background. This does sound clinical and impersonal but he follows a fictional couple- Harold and Erica- from birth to last days to tell the story. By the end you feel like you know them and it is generally quite a positive narrative. It’s definitely not a love story though. Could be if you want it to, I suppose – it reads like the other side of a relationship that’s perfect from the outside.


The pair are quite different from each other which makes them ideal for anecdotal evidence- Harold is the son of privileged Americans while Erica is the child of unstable Chinese immigrants , she worked herself into her own good fortune.

What was interesting about this book was that it did include the human element that economists usually omit when charting someone’s success. The character, culture, the psychological development, IQ and interestingly, emotions and sexuality are all given weighting along with the statistical research held

Brooks takes an interesting look at the how the way people relate to their environments can make or break them, particularly the social aspect.

How does being good looking affect your personality development and schooling? Consider how your relationships and academia impact social mobility .How do emotional decisions affect your success? How do your conscious and subconscious mind work together on your path? This all sounds like familiar territory and it probably is but the story describes scenarios in such a relatable manner.

What I loved about the book was that the concepts evidence that the power to forge your own path and success is mostly with yourself

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

The Social Animal seems current 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.

Rating: 7.5/10

Recommend it? Yep, to anyone who wants to have an insight into 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 that’s completely brand new but it does what its supposed- make you look with fresh eyes

Would you read it again?: If someone condensed it I would definitely. Maybe flicking through it again just now was enough though

Read it if you like: Malcolm Gladwell Books or Freakonomics



If you have read this, it would be great to know what you thought. Also feel free to join me on GoodReads, whoever is on it!




4 thoughts on “The Throwback Thursday Books: The Social Animal

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