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Bobos in Paradise : The New Upper Class and How They Got There
by David Brooks

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Hardcover - 284 pages (May 2000)
Simon & Schuster; ISBN: 0684853779 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.99 x 8.76 x 5.80 Sales Rank: 202
Popular in: California (#19) Wayne, PA (#2) . See more
Avg. Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Number of Reviews: 43

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Editorial Reviews
You've seen them: They sip double-tall, nonfat lattes, chat on cell phones, and listen to NPR while driving their immaculate SUVs to Pottery Barn to shop for $48 titanium spatulas. They tread down specialty cheese aisles in top-of-the-line hiking boots and think nothing of laying down $5 for an olive-wheatgrass muffin. They're the bourgeois bohemians--"Bobos"--an unlikely blend of mainstream culture and 1960s-era counterculture that, according to David Brooks, represents both America's present and future: "These Bobos define our age. They are the new establishment. Their hybrid culture is the atmosphere we all breathe. Their status codes now govern social life." Amusing stereotypes aside, they're an "elite based on brainpower" and merit rather than pedigree or lineage: "Dumb good-looking people with great parents have been displaced by smart, ambitious, educated, and antiestablishment people with scuffed shoes."

Bobos in Paradise is a brilliant, breezy, and often hilarious study of the "cultural consequences of the information age." Large and influential (especially in terms of their buying power), the Bobos have reformed society through culture rather than politics, and Brooks clearly outlines this passing of the high-class torch by analyzing nearly all aspects of life: consumption habits, business and lifestyle choices, entertainment, spirituality, politics, and education. Employing a method he calls "comic sociology," Brooks relies on keen observations, wit, and intelligence rather than statistics and hard theory to make his points. And by copping to his own Bobo status, he comes across as revealing rather than spiteful in his dead-on humor. Take his description of a typical grocery store catering to discriminating Bobos: "The visitor to Fresh Fields is confronted with a big sign that says 'Organic Items today: 130.' This is like a barometer of virtue. If you came in on a day when only 60 items were organic, you'd feel cheated. But when the number hits the three figures, you can walk through the aisles with moral confidence."

Like any self-respecting Bobo, Brooks wears his erudition lightly and comfortably (not unlike, say, an expedition-weight triple-layer Gore-Tex jacket suitable for a Mount Everest assault but more often seen in the gym). But just because he's funny doesn't mean this is not a serious book. On the contrary, it is one of the more insightful works of social commentary in recent memory. His ideas are sharp, his writing crisp, and he even offers pointed suggestions for putting the considerable Bobo political clout to work. And, unlike the classes that spawned them--the hippies and the yuppies--Brooks insists the Bobos are here to stay: "Today the culture war is over, at least in the realm of the affluent. The centuries-old conflict has been reconciled." All the more reason to pay attention. --Shawn Carkonen

The New York Times Book Review, Kurt Andersen
The book is a pleasure, simultaneously bracing and comforting, like a sauna.

The Washington Post Book World, Jonathan Yardley
...[a] perceptive and amusing book...

From Kirkus Reviews
A lighthearted morphology that traces the evolution, mating rituals, and nervous system of a new group of social animals: the bourgeois bohemians (Bobos) who arose from the affluent educated class and reconciled the counterculture values of the 1960s to the entrepreneurial energies of the 1980s. The collapse of the WASP Establishment, beginning in the 1950s, left a vacuum for a new hierarchy that would be more ethnically inclusive and meritocratic. The culture wars of the next few decades ended,... read more

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful:

1 out of 5 stars More Bou than Bo, July 4, 2000
Top 1000 Reviewer Reviewer: John Dolan (see more about me) from The eXile, Moscow

David Brooks is a born lickspittle. He clearly enjoys flirting with his target audience, teasing them just enough to get their attention, then flattering them for pages. It's not very well done--even his title, the abbreviation "Bobo," makes you wince, because the "bo" in "bourgeois" isn't pronounced like the "bo" in "bohemian." The mismatch is symptomatic: Brooks' readers are far more bourgeois than they are bohemian. They are the same world-weary Eastern crowd to which the New Yorker has pandered lo, these many decades, and Brooks feeds them the same adoring banter they've come to expect. But what vile taste they and their little evangelist reveal! How horrible these little lives of furniture-pedantry! Two careers and a high-strung child who'll acquire new affectations every year, til she winds up spending her trust fund on therapy--that's Paradise? What a wretched paradise! No wonder they need this groveller to tell them how happy they are, how wonderful, for two hundred craven pages!

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39 of 57 people found the following review helpful:

3 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Occasionally Insightful, June 9, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from Nashville, TN

Reading through the previous reviews recorded here on this book, I wasn't surprised that some readers loved it, others hated it, and some noted its superficiality while being amused.

Brooks' concept of Bobos (Bourgeois Bohemians) is fascinating and at times his observations sparkle, but he is utterly unconvincing when he argues that Bohemian values "rule" in America today. Clearly, Brooks is aware of the view that Bohemian values have been coopted by the corporate establishment and used as a marketing vehicle; but he makes little effort to explain why he rejects this view for one that exhalts the supposed power of people who are too easily stereotyped for eating granola and wearing Birkenstocks.

There is much in this book that struck me as wrongheaded--especially when Brooks obsesses on surface-level concerns rather than their deeper meanings, such as the repeated shots he takes at those Bobos who may prefer to buy a hand-woven blanket made in Guatemala rather than a synthetic one manufactured in America. As if this is a matter of great importance.

Despite its shortcomings, Brooks' insights make the book well worth a reading--his observations, for example, on Latte Towns, the new morality of Bobos (with its central focus on medical rather than religious injunctions), and the culture of Seattle can be both wickedly funny and insightful.

Brooks is the sort of conservative a liberal like me can enjoy. In reviewing the attacks of more strident right-wing commentators, Brooks provides a sensible corrective to the overwrought ravings of the Clinton haters and those conservatives, such as Robert Bork, who descend to self-parody when they reflect on the nightmare of "the Sixties."

Brooks's won't be the last word on the subject of those aging, affluent Boomers who exert such power in America today. But this book will be influential and widely read across the ideological spectrum. It's a lot smarter, funnier and more perceptive than much of what has already been written on this generation.

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Avg. Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Number of Reviews: 43
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

1 out of 5 stars Uneven and inconsistent, August 4, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from Calais, VT USA

This book comes across as more of a jumping-on-the-bandwagon book than a carefully (or even uncarefully) researched sociological study. The author's main contention is that the upper class in America has shifted from being comprised of people with a lot of wealth to people with a lot of education. He points out that the rich in the past weren't typically top achievers, even if they did manage to graduate from Harvard, but now the top achievers seem to be well-to-do. There's a missing logical connection there that's never explicitly filled in. Likewise, he approaches the justification for his term "Bobo" for "bourgeois bohemian" from several directions but never quite completes the task. But that's all in the beginning of the book where he appears to be on track to somewhere. In later chapters his description of "Bobohood" becomes rather inconsistent. One minute a Bobo is a green hyper-consumer, the next a self-promoting talkshow pseudo-intellectual. I just don't see the connection between all those people driving SUVs, furnishing their houses from Crate and Barrel, and spreading their artisan bread with extra-virgin olive oil with the overbearing interviewees peddling their latest books on Good Morning America. I don't think the ordinary espresso drinkers that make up the core of Brooks' new class all have pretensions of doing talkshows- -after all, many of them are too busy throwing away their televisions. A few tastes of this book are amusing, but as a whole, it's a bunch of long-winded ideas for essays that have been over-stretched to make a monograph. If you want to know who the real upper class in America are, you're better off reading The Millionaire Next Door, whose findings are actually based on real statistical data.

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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful:

4 out of 5 stars Being Bobo is my Mojo, August 2, 2000
Reviewer: Elizabeth Heaffey (see more about me) from Buckingham, England

What a great and decent book about myself. Well Done Brookie. However, being cool Bobo is not nerdy, as percieved by a previous reviewer. Bobe's can be of pre-wealthy families, but these days (Yuppies? Lol-Where you been that last two decades, sonny) the majority are RICH due to hard strong study,torturous hours and 'blooming' hard work. The lesson is to enjoy this book, it's fun and fluency will pull you right in; understand we all have different lives: It IS true about the buying 'rubbish' for the hell of it - showing off etc - then never using it, and dropping to a low after....but just imagine what life would be like for YOU if you were sooo rich, that one just didnt enjoy shopping anymore....see, THEN how would you feel! BTW-'Nerdy' is an 'envy' term...........go on, save your money, give it a go, I promise you, you'll enjoy it (but in my case, et al, you'll enjoy studying and working for it much much more. Case Closed).

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