I’m betting you’ve never wondered why birth control pills generally work in 28-day cycles, nor pondered the difference between choking and panicking. Until I read What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell, I admit these topics were not in my conversational repertoire either. After reading all twenty-two chapters, however, I can explain to friends (who don’t care) “What Pit Bulls Can Teach Us About Crime.”
Malcolm Gladwell, author of the bestsellers The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, has now compiled articles he wrote for The New Yorker in What the Dog Saw. While some of the articles are more traditional and focus on one issue, others highlight Gladwell’s talent at relating two seemingly unrelated topics (for instance, the hiring of teachers and NFL quarterbacks). It reminded me a bit of Freakonomics at times, especially in the chapter entitled “Why Problems like Homelessness May Be Easier to Solve Than to Manage.”
It’s evident from the articles that Gladwell is an intensely curious man dedicated to explaining whatever happens to pique his interest, even if the topic seems unimportant to most people. The answers to some of his questions turn out to be fairly simple – why Heinz ketchup is so dominant (taste) and why the so-called Dog Whisperer succeeds (body language) – but the details of these answers prove surprisingly interesting. A few of the articles will appeal to La Follette folk in particular, like the aforementioned homelessness article and the article analyzing the utility of the classic job interview.
Gladwell’s flowing prose easily draws you into the realms of hair dye and plagiarism, and leaves you wondering what other connections might exist. What the Dog Saw provided me with several new conversation topics, as well as a sense that I understood the world just a bit better. The title does little to explain the book, but a brief glance at the chapter titles should give you enough reason to pick up it up.