David Brooks' reasons for writing his new book were twofold: he wanted to get better at social relationships, and he wanted to help others get better too. How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen is a heartfelt, thoughtful and practical guide on how to deepen relationships and improve your life in the process. 

Having grown up in what he describes as a typically cerebral and emotionally repressed Jewish family, Brooks feels he spent most of his life "pretty aloof, I wasn't the kind of person that people would confide in". In the years of researching this book, he now reaches out for conversations with others in ways he never did before. "And people tell me I'm different now. I'm willing to be more vulnerable."

Brooks wants to challenge the idea that good relationships just happen by themselves, instead arguing that there are specific skills that we can learn and practice in order to connect more deeply with others. We're just not really taught these skills. 

Perhaps especially today, life isn't geared towards making meaning connections, when we spend so long behind screens and interacting in person feels more risky than ever. Social media also breeds disconnection, at a time when we need to find ways to come together: "We evolved to live with 150 people identical to ourselves. Now we find ourselves living in these wonderful, diverse, multicultural societies, and right now our social skills are inadequate to the societies that we live in, and we're not as good as we need to be at seeing across ideological difference, ethnic difference – all sorts of differences." Brooks' book is an attempt to counteract that, and encourage people to reach out and find common ground, offering practical guidance on how to do so.

We chose this as our Book of the Month for November because we recognise that relationships are truly central to good mental health. Lastly, Brooks also describes people that he calls 'Illuminators' – those people who are adept at helping people open up, that make others feel seen and heard, that foster deep and healing connections. We know so many of our therapists are doing just that with their clients. 

David Brooks is the author of How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen

Further reading

See our previous Book of the Month winners

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Can we agree to disagree? Tips for online communication