On Paradise Drive Review
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On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense by David Brooks is a whimsical look at the culture of America. While this book isn’t as in-depth or as heavily researched as other books in this genre, Brooks does an outstanding job of capturing what American culture is. His core concept here is that, despite the cynicism that pervades America and other nations about the character of Americans, we’re really an optimistic people. As a nation, we may be shallow and self-serving, but we’re focused on the future and excited about the possibilities that the nation holds. In short, we believe in the American Dream.

Brooks does an excellent job of laying out how our culture is different by showing what it’s like to take a trip from an inner-city neighborhood all the way out to the exurbs. Brooks paints with a broad stroke the people that inhabit the different zones of the population and certainly leaves out some groups of people when he does. Still, the overall concept is valid, and that’s what Brooks was going for in this book. He was showing an overview of what our culture is—and what it can be—using the places we live to do so.

Often funny and always easy to read, Brooks’ book should be required reading for anyone who looks around and asks, “How did we get here?” I was amazed at how accurate he was when he described the adrenaline rush a man gets when he buys a massive new grill for his back deck.

Brooks supports the idea that, while trends in the culture rise and fall, there are some deep features of our national life that do not change. His point in this case was about Americans’ over-commitment to work, but he makes the same point in other places, such as when he talks about our commitment to success and education. For each instance of shallowness, he also includes an example of how great America is.

On Paradise Drive presents an optimistic look at the American culture. It was a refreshing change compared too much of the literature in the genre that’s available today. It’s a well-crafted book that should be on everyone’s coffee table.

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