Five books for Malcolm Gladwell fans

Catherine Coles
Coles Notes

Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know was just released last month, and it is already incredibly popular at the library. Talking to Strangers is best described as “a classically Gladwellian intellectual adventure.” Gladwell argues that something is wrong with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know. We don’t know how to talk to strangers, and so we continually invite conflict and misunderstanding into our relationships, and this has a profound effect on our lives and our world. If you like thought-provoking, timely books that touch on history and psychology, you might want to jump on the waitlist for Talking With Strangers; and while you wait, you may want to check out some of the following five books that are also sure to satisfy your Gladwellian side.

Similar to Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures is Chuck Klosterman’s But What if We’re Wrong, which explores the idea that today’s mainstream beliefs about the world are fundamentally incorrect.  Both books are amusing essay collections that examine popular culture, conventional wisdom, and the everyday mundane in an accessible, thought-provoking way. They both offer insight into modern society as well as asking some very intriguing questions.

If you enjoyed Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success, consider The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success by Megan McArdle. Like Outliers, this is an amusing, accessible, and thought-provoking non-fiction book that answers the question, “Why do some people, companies, or products thrive, while others don’t?” While The Up Side of Down focuses on examining why some failures lead to success, Outliers examines the patterns behind different types of success.

Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking uses evidence from the fields of neuroscience and psychology to show us how the difference between good decision-making and bad has nothing to do with how much information we can process quickly, but on the few particular details on which we focus. Similarly, Before You Know It: The Unconcious Reasons We Do What We Do by John A. Bargh presents a tour of the influences that shape everyday behavior. Both are well-researched (and accessible!) discussions about intuition-driven thoughts and how snap decisions that override more deliberate thinking can lead to surprising results.

Another good read-alike option for Blink is Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. Both are engaging and well-researched books about decision-making and how certain factors influence our choices. Nudge uses examples from all aspects of life to demonstrate how it is possible to design environments that make it more likely for us to act in our own interests.

The Tipping Point was Gladwell’s first and possibly most famous book. In it, Gladwell explains why significant changes in society often happen suddenly and unexpectedly. He describes the personality types who are natural originators of new ideas and trends. Contagion: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger covers similar terrain, explaining why some products and ideas go “viral.” Both of these engaging books discuss how word-of-mouth can change people’s behavior, with plenty of accessible, informative examples to support the authors’ arguments.

All of the books mentioned in this article can be reserved in a variety of formats from your branch of the County of Lennox & Addington Libraries or online at

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