The Second Mountain Book Summary - The Second Mountain Book explained in key points
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The Second Mountain summary

David Brooks

The Quest for a Moral Life

4.4 (196 ratings)
30 mins

Brief summary

The Second Mountain by David Brooks is a book that explores the search for meaning and a purposeful life. It encourages readers to move beyond individualistic pursuits and towards a commitment to community and service.

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    The Second Mountain
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    Individualism undermines our social connections.

    To understand the first mountain that people climb on their journey toward a life of fulfillment, we should begin by mapping out the societal landscape from which the mountain emerges. The nature of this landscape can be summed up in a single word: individualism.

    As its name suggests, this is a belief system that champions individuality. It’s the dominant ethos of the United States, which can therefore be called an individualistic society.

    Individualism allows a philosophy of life where people are offered almost total personal freedom. Unlike members of non-individualistic societies, you won’t have to conform to the ideas, values or behavioral norms of other people or organizations. For example, you won’t have to live by the dictates of political leaders or religious institutions.

    Those dictates represent various things that other people want you to think, value or do. But what do you want to think, value or do? Individualism invites you to answer this question for yourself, and encourages you to follow your own desires. Want to devote your life to whitewater rafting? Or become a powerful business executive? Do whatever you want, individualists say, as long as it doesn’t interfere with other people’s ability to do the same. In the ideal version of an individualistic society, we can all peacefully coexist and do our own thing alongside each other.

    Underlying this conception of society is a worldview that sees people as separate individuals, rather than interconnected members of various overlapping communities like churches and neighborhoods. When you belong to one of these communities, you’re bound up with your fellow community members in a set of shared spaces and endeavors: an example of this is a Jewish community worshipping God in their synagogue. In a communal context, it makes sense for people to have mutual commitments to each other and to their shared values and objectives.

    But each of those commitments represents a limitation on personal freedom. By committing to follow the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut, for example, a person embraces stringent restrictions on what she can and cannot eat. Individualism balks at such a prospect, because, as far as this belief system is concerned, the fewer our commitments and constraints, the better. But this is a problematic notion, as we’ll see in the next blink.

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    What is The Second Mountain about?

    The Second Mountain (2019) poses an age-old question: What’s the secret to living a joyful, meaningful and fulfilling life? David Brooks provides a provocative answer that rubs against the grain of present-day society: reject individualism and the almost totally unrestricted personal freedom it promises, and embrace a life of service to other people instead.

    The Second Mountain Review

    The Second Mountain (2019) by David Brooks is a thought-provoking exploration of what truly brings fulfillment in life. Here's why this book is a worthwhile read:

    • Through compelling personal stories and insightful anecdotes, the book challenges us to reconsider our priorities and strive for a deeper sense of purpose.
    • Brooks delves into the concept of the "second mountain", inviting readers to move beyond individual success and embrace a life of meaning through relationships and service to others.
    • The book offers a refreshing perspective on happiness and fulfillment, inspiring readers to pursue a more connected and purpose-driven existence.

    Who should read The Second Mountain?

    • Professionals feeling a lack of fulfillment in their careers   
    • Individuals feeling a lack of joy in their lives
    • Citizens feeling a lack of connection in their societies

    About the Author

    David Brooks is a center-right columnist for the New York Times, where he writes about politics, culture and society. He is the author of multiple best-selling books, including The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. He is a regular commentator on The PBS NewsHour, NPR’s All Things Considered and NBC’s Meet the Press. He also teaches at Yale University and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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    The Second Mountain FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Second Mountain?

    The main message of The Second Mountain is that true fulfillment comes from service to others and building meaningful connections.

    How long does it take to read The Second Mountain?

    The reading time for The Second Mountain varies depending on the reader's pace. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Second Mountain a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Second Mountain is a thought-provoking read that explores the search for meaning and purpose in life. It offers valuable insights for personal growth and reflection.

    Who is the author of The Second Mountain?

    The author of The Second Mountain is David Brooks.

    What to read after The Second Mountain?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Second Mountain, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Road to Character by David Brooks
    • No More Mr. Nice Guy! by Robert A. Glover
    • The Practice by Seth Godin
    • The Social Animal by David Brooks
    • How to Know a Person by David Brooks
    • Why Religion? by Elaine Pagels
    • 12 Rules For Life by Jordan B. Peterson
    • An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume
    • Languishing by Corey Keyes
    • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari