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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

When I opened this book, I was full of high expectations.  This book was supposed to be Gladwell's Greatest Hits, and, as an avid fan of his other books, I was thinking, "Greatest hits? What could he possibly have written that was a greater hit than Outliers?"  I opened up the book, and found out I was exactly right.  The book was his Greatest hits, all right, but it wasn't his greatest works. 

What The Dog Saw is a collection of articles Gladwell had written for the New Yorker magazine, and the fact that it was a collection was what made it a disappointment.  Were it a food, I would say it was the crumbs at the bottom of a box of Peanut Brittle; before it came several pieces of peanutty goodness, and you just want to sweep every last bit into your mouth.  Unfortunately, just like the individual articles, they're scattered, not condensed around one point, and while they are good, they're gone quickly(unless you get the kind that sticks to your teeth). 

What draws people to Malcolm Gladwell's works in the fact that he doesn't make a point and drop it once he's done explaining.  He has a talent for taking the threads of his ideas and holding onto them as he presents more and more, yet holding them straight so that they can't get tangled and confuse you, and instead of stretching them, making them stronger.  This ability is sadly lost in this collection, which seems random at best.  However, this is understandable, seeing as each article is about a different subject and would have been published in the New Yorker with at least a week in between, instead of a turn of the page. 

Another aspect of Gladwell that appeals to people is his ability to explain things in ways that draw you in, and when the book ends and they finally release you, makes you surprised that you read the whole thing in suck a short time.  Unfortunately, again being a collection, this book is not a quick read. While each article is a quick read in and of itself, the difference in between them is so apparent that it would be like bungee jumping onto a vat of wet cement at several hundred miles an hour and being jerked back up.  For example, you might just be finishing up the article "Most Likely to Succeed" when all of a sudden, you're smacked in the face with "Dangerous Minds: Criminal Profiling Made Easy," and the whiplash is equivalent to running waist deep in water.  For full enjoyment of his works, it is best to read one chapter, then take a break for a bit to get your mind off what he wrote, and then pick up the book and read the next.

All in all, this was a good book, though not as great as his others.  I would give this book 4.2 stars because even if it's scattered, Malcolm Gladwell is just that awesome.

Review by Elizabeth C.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful, thoughtful review! I'm a big fan of Gladwell, but I can understand your points about this being too disjointed to appreciate in the same way as his longer books. I think some people (like my boyfriend) actually liked it better for that reason, but he was reading it while traveling for work, so it was like one chapter before the flight, one during, one on the layover, etc.

    So far I've read and loved BLINK, but I still need to read OUTLIERS and most of TIPPING POINT (which I started but did not finish). I hope he comes out with another book soon!


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