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What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures Hardcover – October 20, 2009
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GREAT PRAISE FOR WHAT THE DOG SAW:
"[Malcolm Gladwell] is one of the brightest stars in the media firmament...Gladwell's clear prose and knack for upending conventional wisdom across the social sciences have made The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, as well as his lengthy magazine features on topics ranging from cool-hunting to ketchup, into must reads."―Alex Altman, Time.com
"This evidence of a Gladwell effect helps to predict something larger: that Mr. Gladwell's new book will be as successful as his first three...This book full of short conversation pieces is a collection that plays to the author's strengths. It underscores his way of finding suitably quirky subjects (the history of women's hair-dye advertisements; the secret of Heinz's unbeatable ketchup; even the effects of women's changing career patterns on the number of menstrual periods they experience in their lifetimes) and using each as gateway to some larger meaning."―Janet Maslin, New York Times
"Gladwell is a writer of many gifts. His nose for the untold back story will have readers repeatedly muttering, "Gee, that's interesting!" He avoids shopworn topics, easy moralization and conventional wisdom, encouraging his readers to think again and think different...Some chapters are masterpieces in the art of the essay."―Steven Pinker, The New York Times Book Review
"Uniformly delightful...Malcolm Gladwell can write engrossingly about just about anything...His witty, probing articles are as essential to David Remnick's New Yorker as those of Wolcott Gibbs and A.J. Liebling were to Harold Ross's...Gladwell has a gift for capturing personalities, a Borscht Belt comic's feel for timing and a bent for counterintuitive thinking. He loves to start a piece by settling you onto a cushion of received ideas, then yanking it out from under you."-―Craig Seligman, Bloomberg News
"Malcolm Gladwell triumphantly returns to his roots with this collections of his great works from The New Yorker Magazine....Do yourself a favor and curl up with What the Dog Saw this week: It is more entertaining and edifying than should be legal for any book."―Scott Coffman, Louisville Courier-Journal
"In What the Dog Saw, Malcolm Gladwell leads the reader on delightful side excursions, shows with insightful conversation how one path interweaves with another, and suggests meaning-he is, in short, an interpretative naturalist of American culture."―Alice Evans, The Oregonian
About the Author
Malcolm Gladwell is a staff writer for The New Yorker. He was formerly a business and science reporter at the Washington Post.
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Gladwell kindly explains in the preface of the book of his purpose for offering readers a glimpse of what he has written in the past decade. And with over 400 pages of enlightening essays in the Gladwell tradition, he takes an idea and he runs with it with a slew of intellectual curiosity that moves into various directions in the process that is not locked into one particular topic; most of what he writes about spans from education, politics, social, economic, cultural, and historical frameworks. But he knows exactly where his thoughts will eventually land with his clear goals explained within the beginning of the book that focuses on: people and their efforts and not necessarily larger than life individuals but the average person that happened to make remarkable results in something they have achieved such as Ron Popeil and his Chop-O-Matic, Devoted to theories, ways of organizing experience, and Predictions we make about people. It is these main factors that relate to understanding outcomes that are not necessarily final in terms of interpretation, and many times before Gladwell has proven that fact in his previous books. And when he probes, he uses a part of his early education and skills as a lawyer and blends it with his journalistic inquiries of critical thinking. All of the chapters show the immense curiosity and a-ha or wait a minute, let me think about that moments. The chapter Something Borrowed is one of several examples, he discusses creativity but makes one question, was the idea original? One of the enticing part of the chapter spoke of memorable classic rock songs from bands such as Led Zeppelin versus a Muddy Water’s song that may have been influenced by lyrics and chords, this topic and another topic in the chapter that held close to home for Gladwell pertaining to the Broadway play “Frozen” and the possibility that the story may have been copied from one of his early articles; purely Gladwell where he has taken what appears to be two completely different topics but he brings them congruently parallel in the conclusion.
What the Dog Saw never disappoints for readers that have grown accustomed to Gladwell’s writings. Two points that one may consider before reading the book, the interesting part about the book is that it provides first-time readers a sample of his writing, and second, it clearly shows how far he has come but continues to move forward in his perspectives that is open to new ideas. But one recommendation, if one has not already read his previous books, it is highly encouraged.
If you are a Malcolm Gladwell fan, this book will not disappoint you. Solid, fast-reading essays that tackle sometimes complex topics and usually come up with a counter-intuitive conclusion. After a while, his essay structure becomes recognizable, and you realize when he is leading you down the primrose path, only to show you how conventional thinking is often wrong. His writing style is nearly perfect for these medium-length essays about current issues.
My only quibble is that some of these essays feel a bit dated because of the subject matter, but that is the nature of topical writing. His own political leanings influence his writing, but why shouldn't it be so?
An enjoyable, entertaining, educational set of essays.
The first section is great. The stories are varied. Every single one talks about a person in a different area of life, from a guy who sells kitchen gadgets to the Dog Whisperer to a person obsessed with making a ketchup better than Heinz. I really did feel like I was reading a new "adventure" with every article. In the second section, things started out well. Soon, though, I started to feel like I was reading the same story over and over again. This is party because of Gladwell's writing style and partly because of how the book is compiled.
Let's talk about the writing style first. It's not dry, it's not boring, it's not badly-done. On the contrary, it's quite good, which is what I would expect from someone who's written for The New Yorker for years. The stories don't drag on; they focus on one topic, such as homelessness, but tackle it from different angles. For example, in the story about the Dog Whisperer, entitled "What the Dog Saw," Gladwell talks not only about what Cesar Millan does with the dog, but how movement specialists examine his posture and gestures. It's a different approach. It lets Gladwell incorporate a lot of different stuff into one article, and it also lets him research a myriad of stuff and then break that stuff up into different articles where various sections of it might be relevant.
But on the other hand, I got sick of reading about Enron, which comes up not only in its own story but in one or two others. And the theories, while they were technically different, were all too closely-related for me to really enjoy that section. Some of the stuff was awesome on its own. The story about homelessness and the one about troublemakers were great. But some of them just began to blur together and consequently weren't as interesting. This is mainly because of how the book is constructed. Articles just aren't written to be read en masse like this; they're meant to be read as stand-alone things, in the magazines or papers they were written for. When you get a collection like this, there's bound to be some repetition. That doesn't mean it's bad; it just means it's not a book that's meant to be read straight through. I feel like it's more something that should be picked up every now and then to read one article, and then to be put back down for a while before being looked again.
At least, that's what I saw.
3 out of 5 stars.