Monday, January 6, 2014

What The Dog Saw and Other Adventures

Book: What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures

Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Edition:   Library ePub
Read: November 2013
307 pages
Rated: 31/2 out of 5

Gladwell is known for looking at a problem from a different perspective. That is where the title comes from. He read a story about Ceasar Millian, the dog whisperer, which was interesting. But what interested Gladwell was what does the dog think of what Millner is doing?  That is what Gladwell does through the book.

This is a collection of 19 essays published by Gladwell in the New York Times. These essays are published in three parts, each part consisting of a book.
  1. Obsessives and Minor Geniuses
  2. Theories and Organizing Experience
  3. Predictions

 So a couple of general thoughts as you read through Gladwell's books. First, there is a type of thinking which Gladwell has. He talks about it in the Dog Whisperer article. Most of the time, we look at things from one way, usually the obvious way. But sometimes to better understand things,  you need to find a different perspective. That perspective is from the other end of the looking glass.

But does Gladwell get it right? Such as his piece concerning profiling. They way he describes profiling, it is akin to charlatans and fortunetellers. You give a little information and they make predictions which are broad and general. As I was reading the piece I was wondering if the predictions were made all in one place and time by one person? Or was it made over a time by different people as new information was given. Gladwell just does not talk about the process being used and the factors. This is an example.

I started reading Gladwell because of a friend liking how the author thinks. Each of the 19 pieces are interesting and Gladwell does give you pause to think about how come we draw certain conclusions, why do experts think in certain ways.

But what I was seeing  in this book was a sense of disjointedness. These are 19 separate articles put into one book. Even dividing it into three loose parts does not give it a sense of unity. It reads more like the best of Gladwell's writing for the New York Times. Unfortunately what it does is brings out the weakness in his writing.

The weakness is that many of the articles could use more follow up to support Gladwell's thinking. Such as when he talks about the differences in artists whose greatness is recognized from the start versus those who have to develop their talent. In what ways is the talent developed? What did people see in the developing artist which caused them to continue to support him? This lack of depth undermines Gladwell's analysis.

Still, Gladwell is very readable and causes the reader to think and re-examine the premise of commonly held assumptions. Other books by him are better.

New Words:

  • Precocity (Book III,chp 1, pg 18)   exceptionally early or premature development

Good Quotes:

  • Last Line: It's always easier just to ban the breed.
  •  The trick to finding ideas is to convince yourself that everyone and everything has a story to tell. Book III, preface. Pg 14
  • Self-consciousness is the enemy of "interestingness."  Book III, preface. Pg 15

Table of Contents

  • Preface
    • "To a worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish." -Obsessives, pioneers, and other varieties of minor genius.
    • The Pitchman - Ron Popeil and the conquest of the American kitchen
    • The Ketchup Conundrum - Mustard now comes in dozens of different varieties. Why has ketchup stayed the same?
    • Blowing Up - How Nassim Taleb turned the inevitability of disaster into an investment strategy.
    • True Colors - Hair Dye and the hidden history of postwar America
    • John Rock's Error - What the inventor of the birth control pill didn't know about women's health
    • What the Dog Saw - Cesar Millan and the movements of mastery
    • "It was like driving down an interstate looking through a soda straw." - Theories, Predictions and Diagnoses
    • Open Secrets - Enron, intelligence and the perils of too much information
    • Million Dollar Murray - Why problems like homelessness may be easier to solve than to manage
    • The Picture Problem - Mammography, air power, and the limits of looking.
    • Something Borrowed - Should a charge of plagiarism ruin your life?
    • Connecting the Dots - The paradoxes of intelligence reform.
    • The Art of Failure - Why some people choke and others panic
    • Blowup - Who can be blamed for a disaster like the Challenger explosion? No one, and we'd better get used to it.
    • " 'He'll be wearing a doubled breasted suit. Buttoned.'-and he was." -
      Personality, character and intelligence.
    • Most Likely to Succeed - How do we hire when we can't tell who's right for the job.
    • Dangerous Minds - Criminal profiling made easy
    • The Talent Myth - Are smart people over-rated?
    • Late Bloomers - Why do we equate genius with precocity?
    • The New Boy Network - What do job interviews really tell us?
    • Troublemakers - What pit bulls can teach us about crime

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