Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures” by Malcom Gladwell

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Only Malcom Gladwell could make ketchup seem fascinating. In What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures, he starts off by discussing the “ketchup conundrum”–and from there, keeps the surprises coming.

Read this collection of New Yorker pieces because your Psychology 101 class focused mostly on Freud and behaviorism, and you want to learn more about how psychology works in the modern world.

Key Takeaways

  • Why is ketchup one of the few sauces without much competition? It’s called the “ketchup conundrum.” Most people view the Heinz recipe as the only real ketchup. When other companies try to create ketchup varieties, they’re no longer seen as ketchup, but instead as a different kind of sauce entirely.
  • When making decisions, there are perils in too much information, too little information, and information gathered from images (like mammograms). Getting the right amount and kind of information is a tricky challenge in both business and in personal life.
  • Homelessness isn’t an unsolvable problem. With less governmental redundancy, it could be easily and affordably solved–and at least one city has done so.
  • Plagarism is a tricky concept that is partly defined by tradition–and a gut check. Sometimes, what logically seems like plagarism isn’t.
  • There are two ways to flub a stressful moment: choking (thinking too much) and panicking (ceasing to think). They happen for very different reasons.
  • Some disasters, like the Challenger failure, can’t ever be fully and reliably prevented. Eventually, little problems, such as those in management and communication, add up.
  • Don’t base hiring choices on interviews. Often, the best candidates are those who don’t do well in face-to-face interviews. Look at skill instead. Better yet, offer candidates trial employment and let them learn on the job.
  • Geniuses are usually late bloomers–not precocious children, despite what our cultural stories tell us about our intellectual heroes. (This includes Mozart.)
  • Other essays discuss how various businesses and products succeed, including a short seller, a pitch man for kitchen appliances, hair dye advertising slogans, the birth control pill and the methods used by the Dog Whisperer.
  • Gladwell also discusses the limits and disadvantages of criminal profiling; why it’s so hard to “connect the dots” to find criminals; and what pitbulls teach us about crime.

About the Author

Malcolm Gladwell, a renowned author, journalist, and public intellectual, is celebrated for his captivating storytelling and thought-provoking insights. His works, such as “The Tipping Point,” “Outliers,” and “Blink,” have gained global acclaim for their innovative perspectives on social sciences, psychology, and human behavior. Gladwell’s writing seamlessly blends engaging narratives with rigorous research, reshaping our understanding of the world and inspiring critical thinking. As a captivating public speaker and host of the popular podcast “Revisionist History,” Gladwell continues to shed light on intricate social phenomena, challenge conventional wisdom, and encourage listeners to question established narratives. With his unique blend of storytelling, meticulous research, and profound understanding of human nature, Malcolm Gladwell has emerged as a leading figure in contemporary intellectual discourse, leaving a lasting impact on popular culture.


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