What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
In What the Dog Saw, Malcolm Gladwell brings together, for the first time, the best of his writing from The New Yorker over the last decade.
Here you'll find the tale of the inventor of the birth control pill, and the dazzling creations of pasta sauce pioneer Howard Moscowitz. Gladwell sits with Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, as he sells rotisserie ovens, and divines the secrets of Cesar Millan, the "dog whisperer" who can calm savage animals with the touch of his hand. He explores intelligence tests and ethnic profiling and why it was that employers in Silicon Valley once tripped over themselves to hire the same college graduate.
The first thing I should say is that Gladwell is a very good writer. Every article in What the Dog Saw was intelligently and clearly written - I can't fault Gladwell for my complete inability to understand the stock market - and he got me to read about things I'm entirely uninterested in.
The second thing I should say is that Gladwell wrote about a lot of uninteresting things. From the workings of Enron to the science of ketchup, there were quite a few articles I wouldn't have read, had I been given the choice. However, I also really liked a number of the articles I might not have read otherwise, and several others were extremely interesting.
Gladwell repeatedly went off on long tangents that were only marginally related to the topic of the articles (like talking about satellite photos in an article on mammograms). Sometimes it worked well, and sometimes it didn't, but it did make some of the drier articles more bearable.
The articles I found most interesting were the ones where Gladwell investigated how something in our society works or explained some bit of human psychology. He explained a number of broken systems we use in our everyday lives and the surprisingly simple solutions elegantly and without condescension. He also explained a few historical events and their impact on the world at large.
What the Dog Saw isn't the most thrilling book in the world, but some of its articles are important to our understanding of the world. For that reason alone, What the Dog Saw is worth the read, even if you don't really love it.
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