WHAT THE DOG SAW: AND OTHER ADVENTURES by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown), 432 pages, $34.99 cloth. Rating: NNN
Malcolm Gladwell has become synonymous with pop science. He takes complex studies and number-crunching reports, turns them into magazine essays and bestselling books (Blink, The Tipping Point) and speaks to hundreds at places like U of T. Now he's looking for readers to gobble up a collection of old articles published in The New Yorker.
What The Dog Saw is a fantastic introduction to his writing for Gladwell newbies. It's hard to resist the easygoing style, the thought-provoking theories, the standout quotes from experts in niche fields.
Every essay is a mini-lesson. In Million-Dollar Murray, Gladwell probes the death of a Denver homeless man to segue to an idea about providing housing for the most needy street folk... not everyone. It'd save millions of dollars in emergency room visits and start to solve the homeless crisis, he says.
He discusses plagiarism from the perspective of a playwright who built an entire play on the life of a criminal psychologist, sparking a lawsuit and copyright wars. Gladwell places himself in this essay, a tool he's been adopting in his books. It's not jarring, and it does position him as a more personal social commentator than, say, Stephen R. Johnson.
Gladwell, a native of Elmira, Ontario, is a fun writer. Whether investigating "dog whisperers" or CIA failures, he knows how to tell a good story. No wonder this has slipped on to the bestseller list. Those who know only the books will love it.
But for fans of his New Yorker material, What The Dog Saw might be old news. The only new portion of this book is the introduction.
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