68 Minutes With … David Brooks
New York magazine|April 29, 2019

The conservative columnist takes a look inside his soul. But what does he see?

Lisa Miller

It was 2013, and David Brooks was in the wilderness. Not the literal desert or jungle or anything like that, but the emotional wilderness of an accomplished man who, in midlife, has discovered a deep emptiness at his core. His marriage of 27 years was falling apart. The genteel conservatism in which he was nurtured and raised was morphing into something craven, naked, and raw. Lonely and living alone in an apartment in Washington, D.C., Brooks, 52 at the time, took stock and saw that in his rise to the pinnacle of American punditry, he had failed to make or keep meaningful friendships. And what was happening to him, Brooks writes in his new book, The Second Mountain, was happening on a nationwide scale. “The crisis in our politics is created by the crisis in our sociology and in our relationships—and in our morals,” he told me, looking preppy, eager, and somewhat slighter than I’d imagined, as we sat drinking coffee at a chain restaurant near Carnegie Hall.

But Brooks picked himself up. He landed a gig at—where else?—Yale, teaching a class about—what else?—humility, with a syllabus including works by Edmund Burke, Reinhold Niebuhr, and himself. His emotionally arid existence bloomed again, thanks to the loving presence of a woman— Anne Snyder, his researcher at the New York Times and 23 years his junior. After years of chaste but charged email exchanges on subjects such as Dorothy Day and St. Augustine, Snyder agreed to go on a date with Brooks in 2016. They married in 2017. And while The Second Mountain purports to describe the hyper individualism of American politics and society as a disease and wonkily offers cures that fans of Oprah absorbed long ago, it would not be hyperbole to say that it is also, both explicitly and between the lines, a gushing paean to romance from a gobsmacked man happily rediscovering sex. As such, it is full of cringeworthy aphorisms. “Love,” writes Brooks, “plows open the hard crust of our personality and exposes the fertile soil below.”

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM NEW YORK MAGAZINEView All

Life After Nirvana

Dave Grohl is being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for a second time. He’s got a lot to reflect on.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
October 25 - November 7, 2021

30 Minutes With… Lina Khan

The FTC’s very young new boss thinks corporations are abusing their power. To fight them, she’s consolidating some clout of her own.

10 mins read
New York magazine
October 25 - November 7, 2021

IT'S HIS TOWN NOW

As he coasts to general-election victory, the post-technocrat, post-progressive Eric Adams mayoralty has already begun.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
October 25 - November 7, 2021

Matt Berry Has a Type

The actor is known for playing ridiculous characters with a straight face—the stupider the better.

8 mins read
New York magazine
October 25 - November 7, 2021

The Money Game: Michelle Celarier

The Crypto Concerned Why the ‘Big Short’ guys think bitcoin is a bubble.

6 mins read
New York magazine
October 25 - November 7, 2021

Katie Couric Is Not for Everyone

Many years after her long career as America’s beloved morning-news anchor, she has decided to write a wild, unflinching memoir focused on the messy parts. Why?

10+ mins read
New York magazine
October 25 - November 7, 2021

The One-Bed room Museum

Thomas Lollar—ceramicist, teacher, and, most of all, collector— can always find space for something else in his home.

3 mins read
New York magazine
October 25 - November 7, 2021

The Real Star of Dune

Rebecca Ferguson plays the intimidating Lady Jessica in the sci-fi epic. She’s much friendlier in person.

4 mins read
New York magazine
October 25 - November 7, 2021

The Soft Sell

The healthcare brand Hims wants to leverage young men’s anxiety over erections and hair loss into a multibillion-dollar empire. It’s been harder than expected.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
October 25 - November 7, 2021

Tomorrow: Bridget Read

Weathering the Weather Mental-health professionals are trying to figure out how to talk about the climate.

6 mins read
New York magazine
October 25 - November 7, 2021