Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Judging by sales I'm one of the last people out there to read a Malcolm Gladwell book--ladies and gentlemen, watch out for flying hyperbole--but I've just read Blink aka The-Gladwell-Book-That-Sold-Less-but-Still-Sold-Really-Well. I was given it for free. As far as I can tell, the formula for the book was this:
  • Come up with a subject that's interesting but hardly world and don't address any aspect of it that might be controversial.
  • Write about it in a manner that is cogent and easy to understand.
  • Name recognition, baby.
Of course this isn't easy to do, but you can certainly see why the book was successful.

The most frustrating part of the book was its utter vanilla-ness on a topic that has pretty serious real world implications. I mean honestly, the man got through an entire chapter centered around the Amadou Diallo incident without expressing a real opinion or coming to a strong conclusion. I think his opinion is that the police were insufficiently trained. Does that really need all this scientific background information? My grandfather, who worked for the NYPD for many years would agree with him. Except he said as much when it happened, not after all kinds of consultation about the behavior of people with autism and professional athletes heartrates and all the other things Gladwell brings in. And honestly? That stuff does have the potential to be interesting. But Gladwell's book is so bland that he won't even come out and say something like, "The NYPD should have been held accountable for sending insufficiently trained cops into the ghetto." His basic conclusion, after all his research, appears to be, trust your instincts, but only if your instincts are so developed as to prevent mistakes. That's terribly helpful.

Anyway, the most interesting part of the book--in the interest of equal time--is when he talks about the unconscious mind. The associations we make without even realizing it. There's a chapter about how these associations affect our behavior that I found pretty fascinating. And the most interesting part of it was the Implicit Association Tests bit. Mainly because you can take them yourself right here. Now admittedly I'm about five years old and if it's interactive, I'm a happy girl, but this is really intriguing and disturbing simultaneously. So thank you, Malcolm Gladwell, I suppose.

On another note, I know white dust covers look sharp and all and the cover of The Tipping Point was awesome, I get that, but they seriously suck. They get all dirty and nasty looking. Sure you can just take the dust cover off, but then you can't use the flaps as bookmarks. Not cool.

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