418 of 430 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "A unique perspective on the complexity of the human mind."
Malcolm Gladwell's "What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures" is a compilation of the author's favorite work from The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1996. This book is divided into three parts 1. Obsessives, Pioneers, and Other Varieties of Minor Genius 2. Theories, Predictions, and Diagnoses 3. Personality, Character, and Intelligence. In the first...
Published on October 20, 2009 by E. Bukowsky
236 of 276 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother - a collection of articles
I'm a big fan of Gladwell's previous three books and how each of them took an idea and fully developed it over the course of a book. Admittedly the books were small, but that makes sense because I don't think you could write another 100 pages or so on any of those topics and keep the books as interesting to read as they were. When I saw a new book by Malcolm Gladwell out...
Published on November 30, 2009 by BTrain
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418 of 430 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "A unique perspective on the complexity of the human mind.",
Malcolm Gladwell's "What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures" is a compilation of the author's favorite work from The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1996. This book is divided into three parts 1. Obsessives, Pioneers, and Other Varieties of Minor Genius 2. Theories, Predictions, and Diagnoses 3. Personality, Character, and Intelligence. In the first part, Gladwell includes portraits of a pitchman for kitchen gadgets who is so persuasive that he could sell clothing to a nudist. In addition, he discusses three female advertising pioneers, a canny investment strategist, and a "dog whisperer" who is able to tame even the most intransigent canine. What these people have in common is an understanding of how human beings (and four-legged creatures) think and feel, supreme self-confidence, and the ability to promote themselves and their ideas. The second part deals with the art of thinking and seeing clearly. Gladwell describes the series of events that led to the Challenger explosion and the collapse of Enron. Could these catastrophic events have been foreseen and prevented? In part three, the author discusses various aspects of genius and talent, and whether it is possible to profile criminal behavior or predict how a prospective employee will fare on the job.
"What the Dog Saw" has some intriguing passages that will impel readers to say, "I never thought of this subject in quite that way before." The provocative Gladwell enjoys toying with conventional wisdom and challenging our preconceived notions. For instance, in one article, he defends certain forms of plagiarism, a transgression that many would consider indefensible. In another, he states that tragedies such as the Challenger disaster are unavoidable, since for a variety of reasons, "we don't really want the safest of all possible worlds." This water-cooler book will have people arguing vehemently that Malcolm Gladwell is either out of his mind or, conversely, that he is a courageously honest writer who dares to tell it like it is.
Unfortunately, there are several dreary chapters, including one that analyzes why one particular brand of ketchup is so popular and another that explores the poor judgment of John Rock, the inventor of the birth control pill. In addition, Gladwell occasionally indulges in hair-splitting: Do most of us really care about the fine distinctions between panicking and choking? On the other hand, there is a fascinating section that explains why mammograms, as a diagnostic tool, are inexact and hard to interpret. In addition, Gladwell makes a good case for the notion that intelligence failures, such as the ones that preceded 9/11, are easy to condemn in hindsight but may be more understandable when viewed in context. Malcolm Gladwell's strength has always been his ability to tell an original and entertaining story and connect it to our everyday experiences. He does just that in his best pieces, but there are others that probably should not have made the cut.
445 of 463 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you don't need the actual physical book...,
Not a review so much as a notice. If you don't need the actual book itself, you should know that all of these pieces are available on Malcolm Gladwell's website for free.
60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars exploring aspects of human psyche - article by article,
In a compendium of previously published articles (as old as 1996 and as recent as 2008), Gladwell attempts to provide a unique window to the human psyche mostly in terms of its creativity, inventiveness, decision making and biases. While the articles themselves are very engaging read and informative, the compendium-of-best-articles, leaves the reader fairly direction-less due to the lack of an explicit theme or an overarching premise to contextualize the articles. Moreover, Gladwell doesn't use the opportunity to self-critique older articles and provide any additional insights that would have significantly helped the reader. Gladwell fans and frequent users of his website/blog may find the lack of new material disappointing.
In the first part Gladwell zigzags his way through kitchen gadgets, ketchup, Wall Street, hair dyes, birth control and dog whisperers. The range of the topics, notwithstanding, the reader is treated to unique glimpses of "hidden extraordinary" as the book jacket frames it. (Other reviewers have talked about the contents in the other two parts, but expect a wide plethora of topics) In a way, the lack of cohesiveness of the topics encourages the reader to wander to very different topics which oftentimes leads to surprising insights. The articles being written at different times shouldn't be expected to be able to maintain a uniform sense of engagement or interest to the reader.
After reading through the entire book,the reader is likely to have come across few instances or discussions that will force you to rethink, but overall, the book doesn't provide a relatively succinct theme or question such as the Outliers did for understanding success or the Tipping Point's take on ideas or Blink's take on gut responses. As entertaining and interesting a compendium this turned out to be, a reader will need to manage expectations with respect to this collection of articles.
236 of 276 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother - a collection of articles,
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I'm a big fan of Gladwell's previous three books and how each of them took an idea and fully developed it over the course of a book. Admittedly the books were small, but that makes sense because I don't think you could write another 100 pages or so on any of those topics and keep the books as interesting to read as they were. When I saw a new book by Malcolm Gladwell out I jumped on it and went ahead and ordered it without even looking at a description of the book. Shame on me for granting Gladwell the status of having anything bought site-unseen. This book is merely a collection of previously published articles written for the new Yorker magazine. As articles they lack the depth and level of development seen in his previous books. Articles seem to be just that, magazine articles covering one subject rather than trying to take one idea and really expand upon it and explore it in depth. Yes, the articles are organized into an attempt to tie them more together into what the subject matter they are covering but that feels forced and like it was the little work the publisher had Gladwell do in putting this book together before they could print it and sell it to you.
Buy it if you don't get the New Yorker and don't really care that it isn't anything new or very similar to his previous books.
Don't buy it if you can wait for the paperback, or have already read his articles in the New Yorker, or are thinking this will be something like his previous books.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, what a surpirsing gem!,
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I've enjoyed all of Malcolm Gladwell's single-subject books, so I thought I'd give this collection of his articles a chance even though I often find compilations like this to be a let down. I'm positively thrilled I read it. The only drawback may be that my friends and family must be sick to death of listening to me talk about it.
A number of things make the book a real standout. The first is Gladwell's own description of what he tries to accomplish when he writes an article. He says he tries to give the reader a sense of "what it feels like" to be the person he's featuring. He does it in spades and throws a lot more into the bargain as well.
Amongst the articles, I found a clearer and more engaging explanation of Nassim Taleb's theories than can be found in Taleb's own books. They are brilliant and fascinating and literally gave me new ideas on how to deal with today's stock market conditions. I came to understand why French's mustard has hundreds of successful competitors while Heinz ketchup really has none. I learned better ways to interact with my dog. The list goes on and on.
What's so fun is that each article took me into a world different from my own and when I left, I had more than I came in with. Some of it is truly helpful in my life, some will make great cocktail party conversation and some is just fascinating in its own right.
Pick this one up and give it a read. I think you'll be glad you did.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Soft Science Adventures,
This book consists of a collection of stories that have previously appeared in The New Yorker, all written by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell is a talented writer who is able to draw from many disciplines and change the inane to the interesting. These shorter works are disconnected, only loosely fitting into the three categories that Gladwell divides them into: Minor Geniuses, Theories, & Intelligence. Gladwell's Blink and The Tipping Point remain his best works, but this book is still an entertaining, thought provoking read.
The section on Minor Geniuses covers Ron Popeil, Ketchup, Taleb and the Black Swan, Hair Dye, the inventor of birth control, and the dog whisperer. The two that stand out in this section are the first and the last. Ron Popeil's history is interesting and Gladwell sheds light onto his personality and business style like few interviewers good. He manages to capture Popeil's zeal for his products in way that may compel you to purchase a Showtime Rotisserie after reading this chapter. The other highlight of the Minor Geniuses section is the chapter on Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer. Having never seen the show, Gladwell once again excels in conveying both Millan's electric personality and his passion for his business. The animal psychology that Millan specializes in is fascinating and makes a great read.
The next section is devoted to Theories, Predictions, and Diagnoses and covers information theory, how to solve homelessness, the limits of photography, plagiarism, intelligence reform, the difference between choking and panicking, and the Challenger Explosion. The first chapter that stands out in this section is the one on homelessness. Gladwell presents an economic case for social reform. While there are some pieces missing to the puzzle, this chapter is thought provoking and will get you to think about solving social problems in new ways. Gladwell's greatest gift, in my opinion, is attacking subjects from a new angle, coming at them sideways instead of headlong, and allowing the reader to think in fresh ways - the chapter on homelessness, Million-Dollar Murray, is a great example. Others that are worth spending some time on include The Picture Problem and The Art of Failure.
The final division in What The Dog Saw is dedicated to Personality, Character, and Intelligence. This was certainly the most consistent section, no duds to be found. The chapters cover how we define genius, hiring practices, criminal profiling, the talent myth, interviews, and what pit bulls can teach us about crime. The section on criminal profiling was new information to me and is presented in a credible way. Gladwell gently tries to pry away the assumptions that we have about criminal profiling and does a great job. Again, this is not a complete picture, but Gladwell gives just enough information to prove his point valid and warrant further research in one is inclined to learn more. The other standout in the section is the last chapter on crime and pit bulls, though each chapter in this section was worth reading.
In my estimation, Gladwell is one of the best writers that we have now. He has combined great writing skill and a knack for exposing excellent stories where there seem to be none. Some have warned that he is not a scientist, does not provide enough information, and does not provide enough research to prove his points. I agree with all of that to an extent, but am thankful for it. Writers who are able to take the hard sciences and popularize them with stories and anecdotes are a gift and we need more of them, not less. This is thought provoking, entertaining literature and is recommended.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a provocative comedian, Gladwell chooses familiar rocks,
Gladwell's subject matter is intentionally, wildly far flung. In addition, one story will go micro and the next will go macro. He revels in the swing. Like a provocative comedian, Gladwell chooses familiar rocks and then breaks them open for the pay off. He exposes the human motivations and the surrounding group dynamics that contribute to any number of calamities. As a premier American Social Scientist, Gladwell is many things; part intuitive savant, part psychologist and sociologist and part investigative interrogator. Above all these gifts, Gladwell is an excellent story teller. He often tackles huge and complex topics with simple unflappable logic. Gladwell's patented "reveal" is his franchise trademark. First he presents an interesting dynamic or problem. He then presents a second, seemingly unrelated problem. Gladwell toggles between the two stories and rolls them out on two long converging lines, logically inching them forward, step-by-step. At the end of each essay, there is a single resolve with an implicit social commentary, (`... the teacher's have an NFL quarterback problem"). He often concedes that knowing the logical answer won't necessarily change the next inevitable outcome. So rest assured, due to our own human nature, curious Mr. Gladwell will never run short of flamboyant material.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Interesting & Unique Perspectives,
If you're an avid reader of "The New Yorker" over the past decade or so, you probably would've read most of the stories Malcolm Gladwell pieced together to produce this fascinating book; perhaps you would've felt cheated that he's simply rehashing old stuff.
Luckily for me, I don't read "The New Yorker", so all of Gladwell's "adventures" that have been compiled for this endeavor are new to me; and I found them to be quite interesting and unique. The end result is a book that anyone with an inquiring mind would certainly enjoy. I loved it.
The topics covered in this quirky series of essays are as far-flung as Ron Popeil and the psychology of dogs; whether you find each one to be of interest is debatable. Certainly, what some people would find interesting, would bore others to death. To nit pick each separate chapter would be a futile endeavor; simply enjoy the essence of Gladwell's engaging prose, and explore the fascinating perspective he lends to our crazy existence.
In the end, you'll discover a different perspective on a lot of things you never even thought about before; and isn't that the reason for expanding our intellectual horizons? Quite simply, this book accomplishes its mission; I highly recommend reading it for yourself.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you loved his other books, you might be a little disappointed,
This newest book from Malcolm Gladwell is a collection of articles written for The New Yorker Magazine. I found some of the articles long, convoluted and seemingly pointless, while others were very insightful and interesting. I loved Tipping Point, Blink, and my favorite Outliers, but only a handful of the articles in this book match the caliber of writing in those three books. I can see where he found some inspiration for his books in some of these articles. Worth a read, but I checked it out at the local library, and I'm glad because I wouldn't reread this one like I did with the others.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I love his previous three books. I dont like this collection of articles,
By comparison, his previous three books are much more insightful and well written than this collection of his New Yorker articles, of which many outstanding ideas had been consummated in those books. On the other hand, I must congratulate Gladwell that he had been improving his writing and story telling skill brilliantly over the years. Pity that I realized so with my finding some chapters in it quite boring indeed. In short, I strongly suggest potential readers to try this in a bookstore before they make a purchase. You may thank me for that.
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What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell (Paperback - December 14, 2010)