Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell
A man holds a piece of paper and is giving a speech
Gladwell at PopTech!, October 2008
Born Malcolm T. Gladwell
September 3, 1963 (1963-09-03) (age 48)
Fareham, Hampshire, United Kingdom
Occupation Non-fiction writer, journalist
Nationality Canadian
Period 1987–present
Notable work(s) The Tipping Point (2000)
Blink (2005)
Outliers (2008)
What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009)

Malcolm Gladwell, CM (born September 3, 1963) is a Canadian journalist, bestselling author, and speaker.[1] He is currently based in New York City and has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. He has written four books, The Tipping Point (2000), Blink (2005), Outliers (2008), and What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009), a collection of his journalism. All four books were New York Times Bestsellers.

Gladwell's books and articles often deal with the unexpected implications of research in the social sciences and make frequent and extended use of academic work, particularly in the areas of sociology, psychology, and social psychology. Gladwell was appointed to the Order of Canada on June 30, 2011.[2]


Early life

Gladwell was born in Fareham, Hampshire, England to Joyce, Jamaican-born psychotherapist and Graham Gladwell, a British mathematics professor.[3][4] Gladwell has said that his mother is his role model as a writer.[5] When he was six his family moved to Elmira, Ontario, Canada.[3]

Gladwell’s father noted that Malcolm was an unusually single-minded and ambitious boy.[6] When Malcolm was 11, his father, who was a professor[7] of mathematics and engineering at the University of Waterloo, allowed him to wander around the offices at his university, which stoked the boy's interest in reading and libraries.[8] During his high school years, Gladwell was an outstanding middle-distance runner and won the 1500 meter title at the 1978 Ontario High School championships in Kingston, Ontario.[9] In the spring of 1982, Gladwell interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.[10] He graduated with a degree in history from the University of Toronto's Trinity College in 1984.[11]


Gladwell’s grades weren’t good enough for graduate school (as Gladwell puts it, “college was not an... intellectually fruitful time for me”), so he decided to go into advertising.[8][12] After being rejected by every advertising agency he applied to, he accepted a journalism position at The American Spectator and moved to Indiana.[13] He subsequently wrote for Insight on the News, a conservative magazine owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.[14] In 1987, Gladwell began covering business and science for The Washington Post, where he worked until 1996.[15] In a personal elucidation of the 10,000 hour rule he popularized in Outliers, Gladwell notes, "I was a basket case at the beginning, and I felt like an expert at the end. It took 10 years — exactly that long."[8]

When he started at The New Yorker in 1996 he wanted to "mine current academic research for insights, theories, direction, or inspiration."[6] His first assignment was to write a piece about fashion. Instead of writing about high-class fashion, Gladwell opted to write a piece about a man who manufactured T-shirts, saying “it was much more interesting to write a piece about someone who made a T-shirt for $8 than it was to write about a dress that costs $100,000. I mean, you or I could make a dress for $100,000, but to make a T-shirt for $8 -- that’s much tougher.”[6] Gladwell gained popularity with two New Yorker articles, both written in 1996: "The Tipping Point"[16] and "The Coolhunt"[17][18] These two pieces would become the basis for Gladwell's first book, The Tipping Point, for which he received a $1 million advance.[12][19] He continues to write for The New Yorker. He also serves as a contributing editor for Grantland, a sports journalism website founded by ESPN's Bill Simmons.

As of November 16, 2011, he was "employed"[20] by Bank of America.


Gladwell has written four books. When asked for the process behind his writing, he said "I have two parallel things I'm interested in. One is, I'm interested in collecting interesting stories, and the other is I'm interested in collecting interesting research. What I'm looking for is cases where they overlap."[21] The initial inspiration for his first book, The Tipping Point, came from the sudden drop of crime in New York City.[22] He wanted the book to have a broader appeal than just crime, however, and sought to explain similar phenomena through the lens of epidemiology. While Gladwell was a reporter for The Washington Post, he covered the AIDS epidemic. He began to take note of "how strange epidemics were," saying that epidemiologists have a "strikingly different way of looking at the world."[23] The word "tipping point" comes from the moment in an epidemic when the virus reaches critical mass and begins to spread at a much higher rate.[23]

After the success of The Tipping Point, Gladwell wrote Blink in 2005. The book explains how the human subconscious interprets events or cues and how past experiences can lead people to make informed decisions very rapidly, using examples like the Getty kouros and psychologist John Gottman's research on the likelihood of divorce in married couples. Gladwell’s hair was the inspiration for Blink.[24] He stated that he started to get speeding tickets all the time, an oddity considering that he had never got one before, and that he started getting pulled out of airport security lines for special attention.[25] In a particular incident, he was accosted by three police officers while walking in downtown Manhattan, because his curly hair matched the profile of a rapist, despite the fact that the suspect looked nothing like him otherwise.[26]

Gladwell’s third book, Outliers, published in 2008, examines how a person's environment, in conjunction with personal drive and motivation, affects his or her possibility and opportunity for success. Gladwell’s original question revolved around lawyers: "We take it for granted that there’s this guy in New York who’s the corporate lawyer, right? I just was curious: Why is it all the same guy?"[clarification needed][8] In another example present in the book, Gladwell noticed that people ascribe Bill Gates’s success to being "really smart" or "really ambitious." He noted that he knew a lot of people who are really smart and really ambitious, but not worth 60 billion dollars. "It struck me that our understanding of success was really crude--and there was an opportunity to dig down and come up with a better set of explanations."[27]

Gladwell's fourth book, What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, was published on October 20, 2009.[28] What the Dog Saw bundles together his favorite articles from The New Yorker since he joined the magazine as a staff writer in 1996.[29] The stories share a common theme, namely that Gladwell tries to show us the world through the eyes of others, even if that other happens to be a dog.[30][31]

Gladwell's books—The Tipping Point (2000) and Blink (2005), were international bestsellers. The Tipping Point sold over two million copies in the United States. Blink sold equally well.[12][32]


The Tipping Point was named as one of the best books of the decade by customers, The Onion A.V. Club, The Guardian, and The Times.[33][34][35][36] It was also Barnes and Nobles’s 5th bestselling nonfiction book of the decade.[37] Blink was named to Fast Company’s list of the best business books of 2005.[38] It was also #5 on Amazon users’ favorite books of 2005, named to Christian Science Monitor’s best nonfiction books of 2005, and in the top 50 of Amazon users’ favorite books of the decade.[39][33][40] Outliers was a #1 New York Times Bestseller for 11 straight weeks, and was Time’s #10 nonfiction book of 2008, as well as named to The San Francisco Chronicle’s list of the 50 best nonfiction books of 2008.[41][42][43]

Critical appraisal of Gladwell's work has been mixed. Most praise his gift for compelling writing and clarity of expression while many disagree with his conclusions or question the validity of his methods.

Fortune described The Tipping Point as “a fascinating book that makes you see the world in a different way.”[44][45] The Daily Telegraph called it “a wonderfully offbeat study of that little-understood phenomenon, the social epidemic.”[46] Steven Pinker writes that Gladwell is a writer of "many gifts... He avoids shopworn topics, easy moralization and conventional wisdom, encouraging his readers to think again and think different. His prose is transparent, with lucid explanations and a sense that we are chatting with the experts ourselves."[47] Reviewing Blink, the Baltimore Sun dubbed Gladwell “the most original American [sic] journalist since the young Tom Wolfe.”[48] Farhad Manjoo at Salon described the book as “a real pleasure. As in the best of Gladwell's work, Blink brims with surprising insights about our world and ourselves.”[49] The Economist called Outliers “a compelling read with an important message.”[50] David Leonhardt wrote in The New York Times Book Review: “In the vast world of nonfiction writing, Malcolm Gladwell is as close to a singular talent as exists today” and that Outliers “leaves you mulling over its inventive theories for days afterward.”[51] Ian Sample wrote in the Guardian: “Brought together, the pieces form a dazzling record of Gladwell's art. There is depth to his research and clarity in his arguments, but it is the breadth of subjects he applies himself to that is truly impressive.”[52][53]

Criticism of Gladwell tends to focus on the fact that he is a journalist and not an academic, and as a result his work does not meet the standard of academic writing. Critics charge that he sometimes stretches his colorful stories to make them apply to business issues.[54] The New Republic called the final chapter of Outliers, "impervious to all forms of critical thinking".[55] Gladwell has also received criticism for his emphasis on anecdotal evidence over research to support his conclusions.[56] Maureen Tkacik and Steven Pinker have challenged the integrity of Gladwell's approach.[47][57] Even while praising Gladwell's attractive writing style and content, Pinker sums up his take on Gladwell as, "a minor genius who unwittingly demonstrates the hazards of statistical reasoning," while accusing Gladwell of "cherry-picked anecdotes, post-hoc sophistry and false dichotomies" in his book Outliers. Referencing a Gladwell reporting mistake, Pinker criticizes his lack of expertise: "I will call this the Igon Value Problem: when a writer’s education on a topic consists in interviewing an expert, he is apt to offer generalizations that are banal, obtuse or flat wrong."[47] A writer in The Independent accused Gladwell of posing "obvious" insights.[58] The Register has accused Gladwell of making arguments by weak analogy and commented that Gladwell has an "aversion for fact", adding that, "Gladwell has made a career out of handing simple, vacuous truths to people and dressing them up with flowery language and an impressionistic take on the scientific method."[59] His approach is spoofed in "The Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator". [60]

Links to the tobacco industry

Yasha Levine of The Exile magazine has written about Gladwell's alleged links to the tobacco industry[61]

Awards and honors


See also


  1. ^ Colvile, Robert (December 17, 2008). "Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – review". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved January 17, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Governor General Announces 50 New Appointments to the Order of Canada", June 30, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Adams, Tim (November 16, 2008). "The man who can't stop thinking". The Guardian (London). 
  4. ^ Gates, Henry (2010). Faces of America: How 12 Extraordinary People Discovered Their Pasts. NYU Press. p. 178. ISBN 08-147-3264-X. 
  5. ^ "A conversation with Malcolm Gladwell". Charlie Rose. December 19, 2008. Retrieved January 17, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c Preston, John. Malcolm Gladwell Interview. The Telegraph. October 26, 2009.
  7. ^ "Dr. Graham M. L. Gladwell". 
  8. ^ a b c d Grossman, Lev. "Outliers: Malcolm Gladwell’s Success Story". TIME. November 18, 2008.
  9. ^ Radiolab "Race". Radiolab. November 28, 2008. Retrieved January 17, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Books and Articles by NJC Alumni". Young America's Foundation. Retrieved October 17, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Books by Malcolm Gladwell". Biblio. Retrieved January 17, 2009. 
  12. ^ a b c Donadio, Rachel (February 5, 2006). "The Gladwell Effect". The New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2009. 
  13. ^ Sample, Ian. What The Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell Review. Guardian. October 17, 2009.
  14. ^ Shafer, Jack (March 19, 2008). "The Fibbing Point". Slate. Retrieved Dec. 28, 2009. 
  15. ^ Malcolm Gladwell will be The Cooper Union's 152nd Commencement Speaker. The Cooper Union. March 22, 2011.
  16. ^ "The Tipping Point"
  17. ^ "The Coolhunt.
  18. ^ McNett, Gavin. Idea epidemics. Salon. March 17, 2000.
  19. ^ McNett, Gavin (March 17, 2000). "Idea epidemics". Retrieved January 17, 2009. 
  20. ^ "[1]"
  21. ^ Jaffe, Eric. Malcolm in the Middle. APS Observer. March 2006.
  22. ^ What is Outliers About?.
  23. ^ a b What is the Tipping Point?
  24. ^ Davis, Johnny. Malcolm Gladwell: A good hair day. The Independent. March 19, 2006.
  25. ^ Malcolm Gladwell: Blink. One Question with Ken Coleman.
  26. ^ What is Outliers about?.
  27. ^ Altman, Alex Q&A: Author Malcolm Gladwell Time Magazine. October 20, 2009.
  28. ^ Sample, Ian (October 17, 2009). "What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell". London: The Guardian. Retrieved October 27, 2009. 
  29. ^ Pinker, Steven (2009-11-07). "Book Review - 'What the Dog Saw - And Other Adventures,' by Malcolm Gladwell". New York Times. 
  30. ^ The New Yorker writer's sense of curiosity burns bright in this collection of essays Los Angeles Times. November 22, 2009.
  31. ^ "Gladwell: I was an outsider many times over". Times Online. June 2009. 
  32. ^ a b Best of the Decade... So Far: Top 50 Customers’ Favorites.
  33. ^ The best books of the ‘00s. The Onion A.V. Club. November 25, 2009.
  34. ^ What we were reading. The Guardian. December 5, 2009.
  35. ^ The 100 Best Books of the Decade. Times Online. November 14, 2009.
  36. ^ Bestsellers of the Decade--Nonfiction. Barnes and Noble.
  37. ^ Fast Company’s Best Books of 2005. Fast Company. January 5, 2008.
  38. ^ Best nonfiction of 2005. The Christian Science Monitor. November 29, 2005.
  39. ^ Best Books of 2005.
  40. ^ Hardcover Nonfiction Bestsellers. The New York Times. February 15, 2009.
  41. ^ Grossman, Lev. The Top 10 of Everything 2008. TIME. November 3, 2008.
  42. ^ The 50 best books of 2008. The San Francisco Chronicle. December 21, 2008.
  43. ^ Kelly, Erin (March 6, 2000). "Bookshelf". Fortune. Retrieved Dec. 28, 2010. 
  44. ^ Hawthorne, Christopher (March 5, 2000). "The Massive Outbreak of an Idea". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved Dec. 28, 2010. 
  45. ^ Thompson, Damian (May 9, 2000). "Are You a maven or a connector?". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved Dec. 28, 2010. 
  46. ^ a b c Pinker, Steven (November 7, 2009). "Malcolm Gladwell, Eclectic Detective". New York Times Company. Retrieved November 19, 2009. 
  47. ^ Fuson, Ken (January 16, 2005). "The Bright Stuff". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved Dec. 28, 2010. 
  48. ^ Manjoo, Farhad (January 13, 2005). "Before you can say". Salon. Retrieved Dec. 28, 2010. 
  49. ^ "How did I do that?". The Economist. December 11, 2008. Retrieved Dec. 28, 2010. 
  50. ^ Leonhardt, David (November 30, 2008). "Chance and Circumstance". The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved Dec. 28, 2010. 
  51. ^ Sample, Ian (October 17, 2009). "What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell". London: The Guardian. Retrieved Dec. 28, 2010. 
  52. ^ Reimer, Susan (October 5, 2009). "Pill Inventor Gave Women Protection But Lost His Religion". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved Dec. 28, 2010. 
  53. ^ "The Accidental Guru". Fast Company. Retrieved August 4, 2009. 
  54. ^
  55. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (November 18, 2008). "It's True: Success Succeeds, and Advantages Can Help". The New York Times. 
  56. ^ "Gladwell for Dummies". The Nation. November 4, 2009. Retrieved November 19, 2009. 
  57. ^ Tonkin, Boyd (November 21, 2008). "Book Of The Week: Outliers, By Malcolm Gladwell". The Independent (London). Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  58. ^
  59. ^
  60. ^ [2]
  61. ^ "Biography". Malcolm Gladwell. Retrieved January 17, 2009. 
  62. ^ "Malcolm Gladwell Award Statement". American Sociological Association. March 16, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2009. 
  63. ^ "UW awards 17 honorary degrees at spring convocation". University of Waterloo. May 2, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2009. 
  64. ^ Davis, Brent; O'Reilly, Nicole (June 15, 2007). "Another feather in their cap". The Record. Retrieved January 17, 2009. 

External links

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