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on 28 November 2009
I have followed Malcolm Gladwell for a long time, and look forward to reading his work. He is thoughtful, lateral, creative. He writes simply and conveys difficult concepts simply. Gladwell has become an important writer. And for me Outliers has been one of my most important reads of the last few years.

All the same, with What the dog saw, Malcolm could do better. Most of the articles I had previously read through the magazine that he writes for and I subscribe to. This could've been stated on the dust-sheet but wasn't. The book was great, Gladwell wrote it. But... I had read it before in New Yorker-size installments.

I'm now conflicted. I don't tire easily of reading the works of Malclom Gladwell. Repackaging old New Yorker copy to compile What the dog saw, and not making this clear to readers is unfair.

Gladwell and his publishers should be careful not to alienate their long-term loyalists.
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on 24 October 2010
If you're expecting a bundle of short essays in the style of 'blink' or 'the tipping point', you're going to be dissapointed. This book lacks the wit and wonder of Gladwell's best work. Instead, what you get is a series of only mildly entertaining stories about the life and work of a range of characters from all works of life.
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I am a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell, and have read all his books. However, take care, if you are a fan of Malcolm Gladwell, you will be disappointed in this book as most of the ideas have been re-written and expanded in his other books, and there will be very little that is new to you. If you are new to Malcolm Gladwell, this jumbled collection of short pieces is probably not the best place to start being blown away by his ideas and writing. This book is a pulling together of his articles, but as I said, all his good ideas have been expanded upon in his other books. I feel this book is a lazy money making exercise by Malcolm's publishers.
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on 11 November 2009
Quite clear this book was strategically released right after Outliers, from the same author. Outliers is a brilliant book and the editors clearly wanted to get ride on the good momentum that book created for the author. Unfortunately I feel in the trap. I read everything Malcolm releases but this book is not like his previous books (Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers). This is a collection of his publications in The New Yorker but they are no near as interesting or insightful as the stories from his previous books. Some of them as simply boring and you end up asking yourself what is the point of the last pages you've just read. Buy everything else Malcolm writes, just don't buy this book... Editors and Author simply got greedy for money.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 13 November 2009
One man's opinion, Malcolm Gladwell is at his best when writing essays for magazines (notably The New Yorker) or when writing Outliers: The Story of Success, his most recently published book. (I do not share others' enthusiasm for his earlier books, The Tipping Point and Blink.) In it, he provides a rigorous and comprehensive examination of the breakthrough research conducted by Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State. One of the major research projects focuses on individuals who have "attained their superior performance by instruction and extended practice: highly skilled performers in the arts, such as music, painting and writing, sports, such as swimming, running and golf and games, such as bridge and chess." Geoff Colvin (in Talent Is Overrated) and Daniel Coyle (in The Talent Code) also discuss the same research.

In this volume, we have 19 of Gladwell's essays, all of which originally appeared in The New Yorker. They are organized within three Parts: Obsessives, Pioneers, and Other Varieties of Minor Genius (e.g. "The Pitchman: Ron Popeil and the Conquest of the American Kitchen"); Theories, Predictions, and Diagnoses (e.g. "Million-Dollar Murray: Why Problems Like Homelessness May Be Easier to Solve Than Manage"); and Personality, Character, and Intelligence (e.g. "Dangerous Minds: Criminal Profiling Made Easy"). In the Preface, Gladwell observes, "Curiosity about the inner life of other people's day-to-day work is one of the most funfamental of human impulses, and that same impulse is what led to the writing you now hold in your hands."

The title of the book is also the title of one of the essays in which Gladwell provides a profile of "The Dog Whisperer," Cesar Millan, the owner of the Dog Psychology Center in South-Central Los Angeles whose television program is now featured on the National Geographic channel. Although a long-time dog owner, I did not know - until reading this article - that dogs are really interested in humans. Interested, observes anthropologist Brian Hare, "to the point of obsession. To a dog, you are a giant walking tennis ball." Apparently to an extent no other animal can, a dog can "read" humans like the proverbial open book. What they "see" determines how they will react. The key to Millan's effectiveness with dogs is his understanding of their need for exercise, discipline, and affection. What he calls an "epiphany" occurred when he realized that they have their own psychology. For him, he realized this, it was "the most important moment in his life, because it was the moment when he understood that to succeed in the world he could not be just a dog whisperer. He needed to be a people whisperer." According to Gladwell, "A dog cares, deeply, which way your body is leaning. Forward or backward? Forward can be seen as aggressive; backward - even a quarter of an inch - means nonthreatening. It means you've relinquished what ethologists call an intentional movement to proceed forward." Ethologist Patricia McConnell and the author of The Other End of the Leash adds, "I believe they pay a tremendous amount of attention to how relaxed our face is and how relaxed our facial muscles are, because that's a big cue for them with each other."

Gladwell seems to have an insatiable curiosity about individuals, situations, and locations that may be, at least unitially, of little interest to others...until he shares what he has learned about them. Ketchup, for example. It is essential to my enjoyment of burgers, meatloaf, and french fries and yet I assumed that all ketchup is the same. Not so! In "The Ketchup Conundrum," Gladwell explains that tomato ketchup "is a nineteenth-century creation - the union of the English tradition of fruit and vegetable sauces and the growing American infatuation with the tomato. But what we know today as ketchup emerged outof a debate that raged in the first years of the last century over benzoate, a preservative widely used in the late-nineteenth century condiments." When I first read this essay in 2004, I was tempted to stop at this point. A debate about benzoate? A condiment controversy? Who cares? It is to Gladwell's credit that he rewarded my continuing to read the article by providing some truly interesting information about a subject in which I had little (if any) prior interest.

The next article in the anthology, "Blowing Up: How Nassim Taleb Turned the Inevitability of Disaster Into an Investment Strategy,"an article first published in 2002. Over a period of many months, Gladwell spent a great deal of time with Nassim Nicholas Taleb, founder and CEO of a hedge fund, Empirica Capital. "Taleb likes to quote David Hume: `No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion.'...[Taleb] has constructed a trading philosophy predicated entirely on the existence of black swans, on the possibilty of some random, unexpected event sweeping the markets. He never sells options, then. He only buys them. He's never the one who can lose a great deal of money if GM stock suddenly plunges. Nor does her ever bet on the market moving in one direction or anitger. That would require Traleb to assume that he understands the market, and he doesn't." Years later, he wrote a book he called The Black Swan and during the subsequent financial crisis of 2008-2009 "made a staggering amount of money for his fund."

In this article and in all of the others, Gladwell demonstrates the skills of a world-class cultural anthropologist as he seeks out information from a wide variety of sources, interviews authorities on the given subject, observes behavior of those involved in the given activities, and then explains to the extent possible - in layman's terms - what the meaning and significance of what he has learned. Each article is a gem. Together in one volume, they are a treasure.
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on 20 July 2011
A nice selection of articles on varying subjects written with his useually flair. The book as a whole is a little disjointed as a result of it's construction from articles and doesn't have the same flow as his others. Good for dipping into on the bus but in my opinion not in the same league as Outliers, Blink and Tipping Point.
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on 3 January 2011
Gladwell writes well, and his method of illuminating topics by describing the stories of one or two individuals who have been affected by them is a good way of making each topic feel real and of highlighting the issues involved. But his refusal to ever reach a conclusion becomes increasingly annoying, leaving one wondering what the point of each story is. The moral of each essay seems to be nothing more than "life is a bit more complicated than it looks", and I expected more meat than that from a clearly intelligent and inquisitive writer.
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I appear to be in a minority when I say that I was not impressed by "Outliers". I also seem to be bucking the trend when I say that I really quite enjoyed this book. Not having the advantage of access to the New Yorker, a lot of these pieces are new to me so I found them interesting and thought provoking. Obviously there is little or no narrative running through the book so that makes it an ideal bedside read that you can pick up and put down at will.
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on 14 September 2012
I've read Gladwell's other books and thoroughly enjoyed them. However this one is just a bit boring and dull.

It's full of stories that are just that - stories without an underlying meaning.

Each of the stories could be condensed into one or two pages rather than 20.

If you haven't read any of Gladwell's other books, please don't read this first because it will put you off reading his other fantastic books.
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on 6 October 2011
The title and dustcover illustration are eye-catching but do not seem particularly apt for a collection of articles or essays on diverse subjects but which have in common a necessity for lateral thinking. As a dog in reality is often hard put to actually attribute consequences to causes he would be even more flummoxed by Dr. De Bono's speciality. (No pun intended !)

Having said that I enjoyed these reprints from the New Yorker immensely, since I am a non-subscriber and don't hang about dentists' waiting rooms long enough. If Malcolm Gladwell's other books are much better, I can hardly wait to get my hands on them.

It is a measure of his genius that he can interest me in subjects in which I really have not the slightest interest ! Ketchup and American football to name but two. In fact the fascination lies in the way he tells a story and develops a parallel line of thought that causes one to have a double-take about the lesson to be drawn from the seemingly simple tale. He is so engagingly readable and straightforward that he can get away with this twenty times in this one book ! I can strongly recommend it.
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