“What the Dog Saw and other adventures” by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell  worked with the Washington Post as a reporter from 1987 to 1996 where he covered business, science and then served as the newspaper’s New York City bureau chief. He then joined the New Yorker magazine as a staff writer in 1996. In 2005 he was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. He has authored three books previous to this: – The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference (2000), Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), and Outliers: The Story of Success (2008). All of his books have been number one New York Times bestsellers.

“What the Dog Saw and other adventures” is a compilation of his writings where he takes the mundane things and occurrences of life and gives them an interesting twist. He writes about obsessives, pioneers and other varieties of minor genius- people who have somewhat shaped the history of postwar America in a small but significant way, like Ron Popeil who sold the Chop-O-Matic and made lives in the American kitchens so much easier or John Rock who introduced to the world, the birth control pill. The stories make for casual, interesting reads but are not frivolous. In fact, far from that, they are informative and insightful. As a woman I learnt a completely new and amazing thing about menstruation. It would help other women too to give this book a read. There are reads for others too. For instance, if you are a complete novice when it comes to the stock market, like I am, it would make sense to read about Nassim Taleb and how he turned the inevitability of disaster into an investment strategy. It also gives excellent pointers to experienced dabblers in stocks and shares. Some stories are inspiring too like the one about ‘late bloomers’ where he asks an interesting question as to why we equate genius with precocity. Its inspiring for people who cross their thirties or forties and realize that they are living in a rut, and that they would like to go for something totally different but which is more in line with their creative bent of mind. There are other engrossing reads like the ketchup conundrum-mustard comes in dozens of varieties, why has ketchup stayed the same. The title seems frivolous but the article actually gives insight into consumer tastes and tells us about strategies that work in certain situations but not always. There are other articles on random topics that talk about myriad things like how do we hire when we can’t tell who’s right for the job, why problems like homelessness may be easier to solve than to manage, what pit bulls can teach us about crime, et al.

My vote goes for the book for its easy read quality-one can sit with it on a rainy day while sipping coffee or on a bus while travelling- and its engaging style where the reader does not get bored. At the same time, the book  informs while it entertains.

Raghav Gautam