A Guide to Books by Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell and books simply go hand in hand, whether we’re talking his favorite nonfiction classics, spiritually enlightening texts, or even those written by him. He is the author of five New York Times bestsellers, which likely has something to do with his name having been included on the TIME 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers.
Gladwell is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History, which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and Broken Record, where he, Rick Rubin, and Bruce Headlam interview musicians across a wide range of genres.
“Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all,” he shares.
Reading undoubtedly played a profound role in shaping him as a person, and furthermore, this favorite educational activity of his must have had something to do with the spirited – and rewarding for that matter – approach he takes to life. Therefore, in order to get to the bottom of what inspired a most capable individual to the heights of societal influence, we’ve compiled this list of 7 books by Malcolm Gladwell.
Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers” – the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?
His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way, he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.
The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.
This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.
Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant – in the blink of an eye – that actually aren’t as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work – in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?
In this gem among books by Malcolm Gladwell, we meet the psychologist who has learned to predict whether a marriage will last, based on a few minutes of observing a couple; the tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even makes contact with the ball; the antiquities experts who recognize a fake at a glance. Here, too, are great failures of “blink:” the election of Warren Harding, “New Coke,” and the shooting of Amadou Diallo by police.
Great decision-makers aren’t those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of “thin-slicing” – filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.
In David and Goliath, Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, cope with a disability, lose a parent, attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.
Gladwell begins with the real story of what happened between the giant and the shepherd boy those many years ago. From there, David and Goliath examines Northern Ireland’s Troubles, the minds of cancer researchers and civil rights leaders, murder and the high costs of revenge, and the dynamics of successful and unsuccessful classrooms – all to demonstrate how much of what is beautiful and important in the world arises from what looks like suffering and adversity.
Talking to Strangers is a classically Gladwellian intellectual adventure, a challenging and controversial excursion through history, psychology, and scandals taken straight from the news. He revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, the suicide of Sylvia Plath, the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal at Penn State University, and the death of Sandra Bland – throwing our understanding of these and other stories into doubt.
Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know. And because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.
In The Bomber Mafia, Gladwell weaves together the stories of a Dutch genius and his homemade computer, a band of brothers in central Alabama, a British psychopath, and pyromaniacal chemists at Harvard to examine one of the greatest moral challenges in modern American history.
Most military thinkers in the years leading up to World War II saw the airplane as an afterthought. But a small band of idealistic strategists, the “Bomber Mafia,” asked: What if precision bombing could cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal?
In contrast, the bombing of Tokyo on the deadliest night of the war was the brainchild of General Curtis LeMay, whose brutal pragmatism and scorched-earth tactics in Japan cost thousands of civilian lives, but may have spared even more by averting a planned US invasion. In The Bomber Mafia, Gladwell asks, “Was it worth it?”
Things might have gone differently had LeMay’s predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, remained in charge. Hansell believed in precision bombing, but when he and Curtis LeMay squared off for a leadership handover in the jungles of Guam, LeMay emerged victorious, leading to the darkest night of World War II.
Here is the bittersweet tale of the inventor of the birth control pill, and the dazzling inventions of the pasta sauce pioneer Howard Moscowitz. Gladwell sits with Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, as he sells rotisserie ovens, and shares the secrets of Cesar Millan, the “dog whisperer” who can calm savage animals with the touch of his hand. He explores intelligence tests and ethnic profiling and “hindsight bias” and why it was that everyone in Silicon Valley once tripped over themselves to hire the same college graduate.
“Good writing,” Gladwell says in his preface, “does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head.” What the Dog Saw is yet another example of the buoyant spirit and unflagging curiosity that have made Malcolm Gladwell our most brilliant investigator of the hidden extraordinary.
If you enjoyed this guide to essential books by Malcolm Gladwell, be sure to check out our list of The 10 Most Inspirational Books by Tony Robbins!