Malcolm Gladwell is a gifted, intellectual writer. A well-known journalist for The New Yorker since 1996, his bestselling books have practically turned him into a guru on social sciences. His insights are remarkable. His prose, ambitious. In his four published works, Gladwell mines through academic research and social studies and uncovers basic truths. In short, his books make you think. And think differently.
If you’ve never read Malcolm Gladwell, I recommend you start with his first, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000). Not that his books need to be read in chronological order, but because The Tipping Point is quite simply the best. Fortune magazine described it as “a fascinating book that makes you see the world in different way.” His subsequent books are also compelling and thoughtful. In fact, Outliers: The Story of Success (2008) is my second favorite by a nose. Then, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005) and lastly, What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2010).
Once read, they’re all worth re-reading to help better understand the information. As Gladwell writes himself, “A book, I was taught long ago in English class, is a living and breathing document that grows richer with each new reading.” In the world of nonfiction writers, this author is among my favorites. So, here are 13 things I’ve learned from Malcolm Gladwell.
1. “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” (Outliers)
2. “Good writing 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)
3. “We store information in other people.” (The Tipping Point)
4. “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.” (Blink)
5. “There’s strength in weak ties. People aren’t getting jobs through their friends but through their acquaintances.” (The Tipping Point)
6. “There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.” (Blink)
7. “If you want to bring a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior… you need to create a community around them where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured.” (The Tipping Point)
8. “Achievement is talent plus preparation.” (Outliers)
9. “There is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible. All you have to do is find it.” (The Tipping Point)
10. “There are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. All you have to do is find them.” (The Tipping Point)
11. “No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.” (Outliers)
12. “In the act of tearing something apart, you lose its meaning.” (Blink)
13. “Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. It’s not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether or not our work fulfills us.” (Outliers)
After you read his four books, if you want to dive into more of Gladwell’s observations, he blogs over at Gladwell.com, but he hasn’t made a new post since 2010. Maybe he’s been busy reading and re-reading books. You might be surprised to learn that Gladwell enjoys “thrillers and airport literature” as he described in this recent article. Or, perhaps Gladwell has a new book in the works. (I hope so.) Any guesses on his next topic? What topic would you love for him to crack wide open? What’s your favorite quote or insight from his books? Which is your favorite Malcolm Gladwell book?