Friday, November 15, 2013

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures - Malcolm Gladwell

What the Dog Saw and Other AdventuresWhat the Dog Saw is a collection of essays by Malcom Gladwell, all of which were originally published in The New Yorker.  The essays are divided into three sections.  The first is about what Gladwell calls "obsessives and minor geniuses," the second is about theories, and the third is about predictions about people.  Now, because these latter two sections are themed so specifically...the book gets a bit repetitive.

The first section is great.  The stories are varied.  Every single one talks about a person in a different area of life, from a guy who sells kitchen gadgets to the Dog Whisperer to a person obsessed with making a ketchup better than Heinz.  I really did feel like I was reading a new "adventure" with every article.  In the second section, things started out well.  Soon, though, I started to feel like I was reading the same story over and over again.  This is party because of Gladwell's writing style and partly because of how the book is compiled.

Let's talk about the writing style first.  It's not dry, it's not boring, it's not badly-done.  On the contrary, it's quite good, which is what I would expect from someone who's written for The New Yorker for years.  The stories don't drag on; they focus on one topic, such as homelessness, but tackle it from different angles.  For example, in the story about the Dog Whisperer, entitled "What the Dog Saw," Gladwell talks not only about what Cesar Millan does with the dog, but how movement specialists examine his posture and gestures.  It's a different approach.  It lets Gladwell incorporate a lot of different stuff into one article, and it also lets him research a myriad of stuff and then break that stuff up into different articles where various sections of it might be relevant.

 But on the other hand, I got sick of reading about Enron, which comes up not only in its own story but in one or two others.  And the theories, while they were technically different, were all too closely-related for me to really enjoy that section.  Some of the stuff was awesome on its own.  The story about homelessness and the one about troublemakers were great.  But some of them just began to blur together and consequently weren't as interesting.  This is mainly because of how the book is constructed.  Articles just aren't written to be read en masse like this; they're meant to be read as stand-alone things, in the magazines or papers they were written for.  When you get a collection like this, there's bound to be some repetition.  That doesn't mean it's bad; it just means it's not a book that's meant to be read straight through.  I feel like it's more something that should be picked up every now and then to read one article, and then to be put back down for a while before being looked again.

At least, that's what I saw.

3 out of 5 stars.

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