Title: What the Dog Saw, and Other Adventures
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Genre: Non-fiction, Journalism
Publication Date: 2009
Purchase Price: $28.00 (hardback)
I haven’t previously been a fan of The New Yorker — my mother began subscribing to the publication when I was in middle school, and it never seemed interesting to me.
I judged a book by its cover (gasp!), and decided that The New Yorker sounded pretentious and stuffy. So I never read any of articles (although the cartoons are amusing).
Enter Malcolm Gladwell, a writer for the magazine since 1996. What the Dog Saw is a compilation of the author’s favorite articles, and it’s a great read.
A few specifics
Each of the 19 articles in What the Dog Saw is a bite-size snippet of thought-provoking writing.
Gladwell starts off each article discussing a specific topic, and ninety percent of the time manages to connect that topic to a second, seemingly unrelated subject (such as fighter jets and mammography).
I enjoyed most of the articles, but three stick out in my mind:
- The Ketchup Conundrum: “Mustard now comes in dozens of varieties. Why has ketchup stayed the same?” — Turns out that because Heinz ketchup is a perfect balance of the five fundamental tastes (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami), there really isn’t a need for more than one flavor.
- Million-Dollar Murray: “Why problems like homelessness may be easier to solve than to manage” — There are programs which endeavor to get homeless people into apartments and jobs. But staffing such programs (essentially providing babysitters), as well as footing the bill for “hard cases” with histories of violence and mental illness poses ethical issues: what about those who are struggling and aren’t chronic alcoholics? Aren’t they more deserving of assistance?
- Dangerous Minds: “Criminal profiling made easy” — Delving into the often-hazy world of criminal profiling. Surprise, surprise, it’s nothing like “CSI.”
Whether you read it all in one sitting or decide enjoy one or two articles a day, What the Dog Saw is a good way to get some intelligent reading in. Take it along to a book club and let the discussions begin!
Anyone out there read The New Yorker? Ever (mis)judged a book by its cover?