Sunday, January 24, 2010

What the Dog Saw -- Malcolm Gladwell -- 3 Stars

I am a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan. I loved all of his books and gave a great review for Outliers. I've talked to a lot of other people who don't like him so much and think he really is stretching to relate the stories he tells as evidence to make sense of his theories. Well this might be the first time reading anything of his that I agree with those people.

What the Dog Saw is a collection of short stories
Gladwell wrote for The New Yorker. He organizes them into three categories, though I really struggle to understand how many of the stories have anything to do with the theme for that group. The stories are typical Gladwell, taking things that seem obvious or established as "fact" and making the reader rethink set conclusions. There were some great essays like: why there are many brands of mustard and few ketchups, how to easily solve homelessness, why some people choke and others panic, and how to correctly hire. There are, as well, a few really bad essays. I especially disliked the essay about Hair Dye (L'oreal vs. Clairol -- seriously?).

The biggest problem with the book and why it did not get a more
Gladwellesque rating is that it lacked so much of the 'pop' and firepower of his other books. Usually when reading his stories used as examples to prove some idea (The Beatles and Bill Gates in Outliers immediately comes to mine), the stories are so clear, well-thoughtout and ultimately perfect in supporting his thesis. I kept expecting these stories to do the same but it never happened. I would continually finish one of his essays (which, I remind you, have nothing to do with one another) and think to myself "That was really interesting but I am not sure his point". Some essays were better than others and almost all were interesting, but many really struggled to have any giant "oh wow, I never thought of it that way" moment like his other books do.

Overall, I still really enjoyed the book and was captivated by nearly all of his essays. Even if they often did not deliver on an "aha" moment, there all written nicely and each topic and story is interesting to read. I would not suggest going out and buying this book (I was lucky enough to have someone let me borrow...I never buy books but that may be a topic for a future blog). Instead, I would either borrow from the library, or, just read them all for FREE on this New Yorker link. If nothing else, do check out a few of his essays;
Gladwell is one of the few writers out there that can you make you truly rethink the most simple and routine parts of life.

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