Part of me thinks that because more people will read this post (being driven, no doubt, by their search lust for ‘bestsellers,’ and not for ‘Malcolm Gladwell’) that I ought to spend a good deal of time crafting a thoughtful and reasoned response so as to fuel my relentless hunger for more readers. But given that I’m not particularly concerned with how many readers I have, I’ll write my review with as little care as, I suspect, Malcolm Gladwell researched his book.
Much like Freakonomics, Gladwell has written a book that could benefit from a combination of research, peer-review, and a good editor. Unlike Freakonomics, The Tipping Point does have a unifying thesis (and a remarkably logical, and hence dull, organization with repeated transition sentences and maddeningly precise topic sentences – really, if you’re trying to teach essay writing this is the book for you), just not a terribly inspired one: some things become popular while others do not.
That’s about it. The book’s exploration of why this is the case falls into three neat categories (again, good for teaching essay writing): context, ‘stickiness’ and ‘the law of the few.’ Each category is “explained” through particular case studies. So arises my beef (as it were): particular, however compelling, case studies does not a proven point make. Case studies that illuminate research are engaging ways of accessing complex research findings. Case studies that serve as a platform for sweeping generalizations give the merits of academic study a poor showing.
I’m sure Gladwell had a difficult time in writing his ‘afterword’ not including the gleeful observation that his own book reached something of a tipping point by becoming an international best seller. Such restraint. Would that I were a maven, salesman or connector myself I might here begin a global word-of-mouth campaign defaming the book. As it is, it’s just you and me. And while I know that my lack-of-mavenness means you may not take this recommendation seriously, I’ll give it anyway: don’t read The Tipping Point.