The Gladwell I am most interested in is the explorer Gladwell, the Gladwell Who is furiously curious about a topic or a person and just wants to investigate the hell out of it. The Gladwell I am less interested in is the debater Gladwell, the one who wants to make an argument and will sometimes overstep his own logic to make that argument – if you know his Revisionist History podcast, I’m talking about the Gladwell who argues to free Brian Williams, or wants Pat Boone in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
That Gladwell appears a couple of times in this collection of pieces from The New Yorker, but you will more often see the Explorer, who wants to get at the heart of the success of Ron Popeil, or the body movement of Caesar Millan, even the distinction between panicking and choking. While yes, his argument about the worth of plagiarism reeks a little of that Debater, Gladwell is probably at his finest here in this collection and also feels less dated than his notable books. I was more impressed with this read, now in 2020, than the books that put him on the map, which have ideas that have been processed and run through in so many ways now that show how much he innovated getting prevalent ideas out into the public mind, but still prove much less meaningful now.