Sunday, October 26, 2014

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

This is the first book I've read by Malcolm Gladwell but I have a couple more in cue.  I hope they are all as interesting as this one.

Malcolm Gladwell is a writer for The New Yorker and is known for seeing common themes from a unique angle.  What the Dog Saw is a collection of essays about a variety of subjects.  Many of them informative about things I never really wondered about before but found interesting all the same.

Part one is about different people who became successful commercially by being the first to think of marketing something no one else considered.  The first essay is about Ron Popeil's development of a commercially available rotisserie machine.   The second is about the Heublein Company developing a variety of mustards when there was originally just the yellow option. Other essays include the lady who made bleaching hair acceptable to the common housewife and fascinating discoveries about birth control, pregnancy and breast cancer rates.  That last one was especially interesting.  Apparently the less periods you have, such as when you're pregnant, the lower risk you have for developing breast cancer.  The last is probably the most interesting.  It is about the "dog whisperer".  A man, Cesar Millan, who is called in to train spoiled, mean dogs.  I learned a lot about my own dog's behavior.  My husband, Josh, now uses the "nip" on my dog Odie, to correct his behavior.

The second part is about law breakers:  Enron, helping the homeless by providing them homes because it's cheaper than putting them in jail, how ineffective mammograms are and just when exactly is something plagiarism and is it always bad?  The most interesting of these essays for me was The Art of Failure, why some people choke and blow it, even when they are experts at their field.  The last chapter is also interesting because Gladwell shows how major mess ups like the Challenger Explosion cannot be traced to any one cause but a number of unrelated incidents that make it impossible to circumvent such accidents.

The last part is about intelligence and how people use it.  One interesting chapter was about so called "experts" who supposedly can predict finding criminals.  How do people hire the right person, how accurate is criminal profiling and "What Pit Bulls Can Teach Us About Crime."  Being a dog person, I especially liked that last one.

In all of these essays, Gladwell provides thought-provoking observations that cause the reader to rethink a variety of attitudes that he or she takes for granted as well as provide information for the origins of other things that I personally had never pondered but enjoyed learning about.

I look forward to reading my other Gladwell books.  He also has some interesting speeches on youtube.

Malcolm Gladwell's speech at Googles Zeitgeist


  1. This sounds really good. I get the sense that it tried to get at how the world works. Thus it sounds both very interesting as well as useful.

    1. Hi Brian. His stories are definitely thought- provoking. Gladwell has his detractors but I think his essays are extremely interesting.


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