I received this book as a gift from someone who knows I’ve enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s work for a long time. I found it as good as Outliers, if not quite as good as Blink. The book is, as it claims on the cover, about underdogs and misfits, but it’s more about things that we think are advantages (which aren’t) and things that we think are disadvantages (which have huge upsides.)
What I like about Gladwell the most is how seamless his segues are, even when they aren’t. Even if he suddenly jumps to another story that seems to have nothing to do with the previous one, he manages to bring it back around so you see the connection. And even if the story started out with David and Goliath and a winning coach of a losing girls’ basketball team and ends with two different reactions to the tragic death of young women, along the way he takes everything so smoothly and naturally that I don’t mind the shift in the focus.
The main criticism I’ve heard about Gladwell is that he plays fast and loose with data in order to make his point. I can’t say that’s invalid. Someone once quoted the 10,000 hour rule (reference to Gladwell’s other book, Outlier) and I felt offended and disgusted, as if someone tried to give legal advice based on having watched a few seasons of Law and Order. It’s also true that Gladwell isn’t using his own research. He’s a journalist, not a scientist. However, he brings such a disparate range of stories to light that many of us wouldn’t otherwise read about. He’s also a good journalist, and his stories feel vivid and alive.
Good science? Maybe not. Good reading? Absolutely. This book is entertaining, and it will make you think.