The Big Ideas of Malcolm Gladwell
I think those Freakonomics guys owe Malcolm Gladwell a steak dinner. Not that they’d have a particularly civil meal; these pop-psych-culture authors disagree vehemently on lots of topics, but you can trace the best-sellability of the modern generation of intellectual sleuthing books back to Gladwell’s 2000 mega-seller The Tipping Point.
There have always been Gladwellian books out there, ones that call on under-exposed statistics and previously unconnected sociological studies to explore counter-intuitive ideas about who we are and why we behave like we do. But Gladwell, in his fascinating best-sellers and articles in The New Yorker, is the one who made it look cool. In a nerdy sorta way. He’s also, you know, really good at it.
Chalk that up to boundless curiosity and journalistic persistence. Or his knack for applying scientific models to subjects like Bill Gates, Muppets and murder. And his unique perspective probably helps: Gladwell is the son of a British mathematician dad and a Jamaican psychotherapist mom, raised in Canada, living in New York City.
In the end, though, we’ll probably need some future Malcolm Gladwell to explain the tipping point of the one we have now, somebody to take the long view on who we are and why these books speak to us. That Gladwell will owe this one a steak dinner, too.