Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Glad all over

Any cursory examination of the books I have reviewed will reveal that Malcolm Gladwell was among my favourite authors of my year spent on the 100-book challenge. I read three Gladwell books - Outliers, The Tipping Point and What the Dog Saw - in quick succession and a further (Blink) soon afterwards, and
promptly wished I hadn't because it resulted in a near three-year wait for his next opus.

Thankfully, the wait is almost over with the release of David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, what's been billed as a study of the balance of power between the weak and the strong, and how the small outwit the mighty.

I've been following the pre-release publicity, and it's clear that there has been a backlash to Gladwell's work; complaints that his anecdote-led arguments are too simplistic and that one of the ways he profits, through large scale seminars that regurgitate his work, take advantage of those who hold him up as a modern guru.

Indeed, there is a revealing Guardian interview with Gladwell that addresses those very points here - while an extract from David and Goliath can be read here.

For my part, I have no issue with Gladwell's easy-to-follow style of writing; in fact, I would argue that it's his main strength. As a reader primarily of fiction, particularly in my leisure time, if you'd told me in January 2010 that by the end of the year I would have read four largely sociological studies, and gone so far in the evangelical stakes as to recommend and even buy them for friends, I wouldn't have believed you.

Furthermore, it's prompted me to seek out similar work that I have hugely enjoyed over the past few years, such as Incognito, The Secret Lives of the Brain, by David Eagleman and Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed (both of which are highly recommended). So, I can't wait.

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