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.
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.
A collection of thoughtful, brilliant essays by Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog Saw is just my kind of non-fiction.
It should come as no surprise that I loved this book.
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.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!It turned out, however, that postmortem brain scans showed that those very symptoms were actually indicators of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE.Mc Kee made this interesting, counterintuitive discovery, and Gladwell told me about it. The next few pages contain a lot of statistics, as Gladwell leads us through a logos-based argument about the prevalence of CTE in former professional football players.I love Malcolm Gladwell, of course (I’ve now read all four of his books). Unlike his other books, though, that more or less follow a single theory, this is a collection of some of his essays written for The New Yorker.They are on all sorts of topics, some very broad, some extremely specific.Even though right after I finish a Gladwell article I often identify points of disagreement or confusion, as I read I am almost always swept away by the writing. And more importantly, should I be teaching my students to Gladwell me?For some insight into these questions, I return to the scene of the crime: Gladwell’s 2009 strategy: the personal profile or anecdote.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.