Malcolm Gladwell Essays

A collection of thoughtful, brilliant essays by Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog Saw is just my kind of non-fiction.

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I rather feel like, after reading this book, that I could pick out a Gladwell essay from a mile away.

One of the things I love about his writing is that he can make practically anything interesting. As you can imagine, the discussion at book club was excellent.

His style is pretty identifiable – often he compares things that, at first glance, don’t have a whole lot in common (recruiting quarterbacks to the NFL and hiring school teachers), and you get used to reading a couple of pages about one topic before he switches gears entirely and then brings them both together later on.

Or he launches the piece with the story of a person before backing up to give the history of a company or the traditional method of dealing with an issue.

You can read most (if not all) of the articles that make up What the Dog Saw on his website, if you’re so inclined, in any order you like.

I had read other pieces by Gladwell here or there, but had never read his best-selling full-length books, although my brother was fond of citing them to me when trying to win an argument. And then, just as I finished the last line, the train pulled into 59th Street.A descriptive paragraph later, Gladwell performs a dazzling rhetorical trick. We have to pick between these two analogies, which suggests that (a) these two analogies work well in discussing the issue of football injuries and (b) either one of these is the right answer: a classic false dichotomy.For a few more pages, Gladwell details horrific injuries, again utilizing the counterintuitive argumentation model of which I am so fond.) with a description of how “alarming” the results of those notoriously unreliable instruments are.The inclusion of this data into the article implies that they are worth knowing, so the disclaimers are easily glanced over and forgotten. Just as quickly, though, we’re on to a different possible comparison: stock-car racing. ” The trick here is how Gladwell deftly imprisons the reader in an either-or scenario.This was the first book I read for my bookclub upon returning to Texas and I’d read the essay about ketchup v.mustard just before my family arrived for Ella’s baby blessing.Although both he and Mc Kee frequently mention that more studies need to be done with larger samples, and even gesture at some other possible causes, the inclusion of the data overwhelms the cautious disclaimers.For example, Gladwell does note that “self-reported studies are notoriously unreliable instruments,” but immediately follows this assertion (in the same sentence!On this particular day, as I hunkered down to read Gladwell’s thoughts on professional football, I experienced a conversion of sorts. I looked up, thought about the article, and said to myself, “Wait, was he just comparing football to dogfighting! When searching for a term for my experience of reading Gladwell, I considered using “the Gladwell effect.” A quick search of this phrase returned a 2006 profile that recounts how Gladwell’s critics deride him for encouraging “lazy thinking,” and a post by writer/editor Richard Bradley who defines the Gladwell effect as describing “writers who try to imitate Gladwell's techniques in hope of attaining something near his popularity, regardless of their expertise in the relevant fields.” Gladwell is a divisive writer in academia, in part because he is so successful. As I rushed to finish the article before my stop, Upper West Side stations whirring past the windows, I became more and more convinced of Gladwell’s position.

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