By the time you finish reading this, Malcolm Gladwell will probably have sold 100 copies of his latest book on Amazon, called Talking to Strangers. Maybe a thousand, who knows?
For professional writers and book authors like me, it’s a bit depressing. For everyone else, it’s quite magical. The guy is a wunderkind and a saint. After reading only a few pages of his latest book, I started jotting down ideas for companies I want to form, people I want to look into, products I want to invent and places I want to visit. That might seem like a stretch considering the book is about the mental and emotional divides between us, but there’s something about the way he writes. It’s always inspiring and motivating.
Gladwell runs a podcast and he is on staff at The New Yorker, but of course, that is selling him short. He is one of the most popular non-fiction authors on the planet, a guy who could describe intricacies of a baseball game or why a company has a flat organizational structure and you sit there and soak it all in. Talking to Strangers is an odd departure in some ways from his other books, including Outliers and Blink. He is taking on racial division, incompatible perspectives, and emotional dissonance without ever sounding preaching or proud. The stories make you think, and the thoughts are not happy.
The opening chapter in particular talks about cultural division (between an African-American woman and a police officer that ended in tragedy). Gladwell is a master of putting you on the ground, in the shoes of his subjects. It’s isn’t always pleasant, but it is eye-opening. I don’t say this about many books -- a few by Bill Bryson, a handful by Paul Theroux, almost everything by my favorite author Rick Atkinson -- but Gladwell changes you. His books have a way of reorienting your purpose and direction.
They say every musician who heard The Beatles started a band. With Malcolm Gladwell, maybe every bright thinker starts a company or writes a book. | Get it on Amazon >
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