Tag Archive: Outliers

May 17

Book Review: What the Dog Saw, et al. by Malcolm Gladwell

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Foundation

Since I left the photography studio, I’ve been working at the library and picking up freelance writing contracts.  I picked up a big (to me) contract through a friend.  I got the brief, attended the opening conference call, and was super stoked.  I was going to ghostwrite a short e-book with a Malcolm Gladwell-style through line.  Which was great.  Except for one thing.

I had not one idea who Malcolm Gladwell was.

And I’m pretty well-read.  I had seen a TED talk he gave one time (the spaghetti sauce one), but I had no exposure to his narrative style.  Now, there are two big rules when dealing with a handicap that only you know about and that can be overcome with a little work:

1.  Never let them see you sweat.
2.  Fake it ’til you make it.

So over the course of the last three weeks, I have read/listened to every word in book form that Gladwell has ever published.  Well, I have one hour left in The Tipping Point audiobook, but it’s close enough that I’m going to lump it in here.

If you’ve never read Gladwell, his style is pretty consistent:  he introduces some story (the origin of hair color and marketing), and then he turns it to connect it to some broader theme that isn’t often questioned in American society (in this case, feminism).  In his book length works (Blink, The Tipping Point, and Outliers), this same metaphor of a moment or example of excellence reoccurs again and again.  Gladwell seems to be obsessed with the tiny to moderate sized everyday miracles that make the word fantastic.  How to best sell a blender.  Why Southerners are more likely to shoot people they know.  Whether driving your kids to choir makes them smarter.  Each story has a whimsical but researched quality that shows just how fascinating the world can be if you stop and think to ask questions.

Although sometimes the turn a topic and link to something larger formula gets a little stale (especially when you’ve read all four books back to back), the information is always solid, informative, and interesting.  Plus, Gladwell was involved with the plagiarism scandal for one of my favorite plays Frozen (Gladwell was plagiarized from…or not…his article about the topic shows just how unclear things like that can be).

Pick up one of these books.  You’ll enjoy it.  And you might just learn something that could save your life or get you thinking about the importance of spaghetti sauce.  Or price checking.  Or Greek art.  Or any other number of subject.  Look at this way: you’ll acquire a number of new bon-mots whose primary usefulness is for sprinkling into dinner party conversation.  And isn’t that what we’re all striving for in this life?

JMF Rating:
Outliers: 8/10
What the Dog Saw: 7.5/10
Blink: 7/10
The Tipping Point: 6/10

‘Til next time,

-JMF