May 18, 2011

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

A collection of thoughtful, brilliant essays by Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog Saw is just my kind of non-fiction. It should come as no surprise that I loved this book.

This was the first book I read for my bookclub upon returning to Texas and I'd read the essay about ketchup v. mustard just before my family arrived for Ella's baby blessing.

I found it so fascinating that I read them several pages aloud. Then, concerned that my fourteen-year-old brother might be wondering what kind of vacation this was, exactly, where he sits listening to his older sister read essays about condiments, I started to put the book away.

"No, no," he protested. "Finish it!"

And then after I'd read them the whole section, he borrowed the book and read quite a lot of it over the course of the weekend.

It's a really interesting book, is what I'm saying.

I love Malcolm Gladwell, of course (I've now read all four of his books). So this book was not a hard sell for me. Unlike his other books, though, that more or less follow a single theory, this is a collection of some of his essays written for The New Yorker. They are on all sorts of topics, some very broad, some extremely specific.

His style is pretty identifiable - often he compares things that, at first glance, don't have a whole lot in common (recruiting quarterbacks to the NFL and hiring school teachers), and you get used to reading a couple of pages about one topic before he switches gears entirely and then brings them both together later on. Or he launches the piece with the story of a person before backing up to give the history of a company or the traditional method of dealing with an issue. I rather feel like, after reading this book, that I could pick out a Gladwell essay from a mile away.

One of the things I love about his writing is that he can make practically anything interesting. Who knew I could so deeply enjoy fifteen pages of small text about hair coloring? And I love that reading his writing gives me an enormous fodder of things to talk about with Bart, with my friends and family, and, um, do I talk to anyone besides those people? Perhaps not. . .

As you can imagine, the discussion at book club was excellent. I think I bored Bart with the details for three days after.

This is the only one of his books that I've read in print, rather than listened to, and I enjoyed it every bit as much, which amazed me since I find his narration to be top-notch

I read them out of order (look at me, living on the edge, like the rebel I am). You can read most (if not all) of the articles that make up What the Dog Saw on his website, if you're so inclined, in any order you like. Give the ketchup one a whirl.

Copy checked out from my local library


  1. I love this book! It's so satisfying to be entertained and simultaneously learn stuff.

  2. I love Gladwell, too, but I hate his narration! :) I was 2/3rds of the way through The Tipping Point when I had to stop and get a print copy to finish it!

  3. I loved this book, it may have been one of my favorites of his! I have been waiting for it to pop up on your blog, I'm glad you reviewed it!!


  4. Thanks for the link to his archives articles. A few thoughts on the ketchup article:

    1. Does he ever really explain why people don't like a variety of ketchup flavors? I found the end of the essay kind of abrupt.
    2. I guess I'm odd in the fact that I really don't love Dijon mustard. I much prefer the plain yellow stuff.
    3. I also don't love ketchup. I only eat it on french fries, and it has to be room temperature, not cold.
    4. Now I want a hot dog with French's mustard.

  5. Yes, yes, yes. I love Gladwell.

    And while I LOVED The Tipping Point and Outliers, I think What the Dog Saw was my favorite.

  6. Oh, how I love Malcolm Gladwell. This is the only book of his that I haven't read (I've kind of been saving it), but this may just be the push I need to go ahead and finish his collection.

  7. I returned Shanghai Girls early and am reading Outliers now- any book that can keep me on the treadmill for an hour is a WINNER! Thanks for the great review. It's true, he writes about such seemingly disjointed things that somehow come together in the end :) I was telling my prego friend that she is lucky her due date is in Sept.- her child will be an outlier for sure!

  8. I'm glad to get a review of this book. I haven't jumped into a Gladwell book in a long time.

  9. What's so fun is that each article took me into a world different from my own and when I left, I had more than I came in with. Some of it is truly helpful in my life, some will make great cocktail party conversation and some is just fascinating in its own right.

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