“What the Dog Saw”


Malcolm Gladwell


My wife and I have belonged for many years now to a wonderful monthly reading group.  Last night, we hosted it at our house, and the item under discussion was Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw.


I’m very fond of Gladwell’s books.  He’s a staff writer for The New Yorker and is also the author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers — each one of which, if I’m not mistaken, has reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list.  He has a unique ability to see ordinary things in a totally fresh way, and to make fruitful connections between things that most of us would never, ever, consider together.


What the Dog Saw contains a number of his substantial New Yorker essays on topics ranging from kitchen appliances through mammograms and the Enron scandal, from pit bulls through the problem of homelessness to the history of ketchup, from the development of women’s hair colorings through the nature of job interviews to memorable moments when athletes “choke” and on to the Challenger disaster.  And more.


There are at least three very clear overall lessons from the book:


1)  In the hands of a superb writer, absolutely anything can tell a fascinating story and change the way readers look at the world.


2)  Things that we assume are clearly knowable are almost never as clear as we think, and may, in fact, be scarcely knowable.  In other words, to borrow the words of the apostle Paul, in this life we “see through a glass, darkly.”


3)  A risk-free utopia, created through better technology and enhanced managerial technique, isn’t just around the corner, and is probably humanly unattainable.


It’s a very stimulating read.



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  • http://plainandpreciousthing.blogspot.com/ Rozann

    I enjoyed his book “Blink” read as part of a book discussion group while I lived in the ‘Tree Streets’ in Provo.

  • Lucy Mcgee

    It is heartening that you’ve mentioned Gladwell, who does believe in God but also believes the war in Iraq was a terrible mistake, that the wealthy should pay higher taxes, that women should have the right to choose and that gay marriage will not be the downfall of life as we know it. He also advocates a single-payer, government funded, universal health care system (similar to what is enjoyed by Canadians). And although in his youth he had a picture of Reagan on his wall, today, if he could vote in the US, he would vote for a Democrat.

    We’ve enjoyed the New Yorker for decades. Along with reading excellent journalism from authors like Gladwell, There is also an added bonus where a reader may enter their cartoon caption contest and win a minor prize.

    • Kent G. Budge


      Is there anything that, for you, *isn’t* political?

    • danpeterson

      I disagree with most if not all of Gladwell’s political positions, as you outline them. But he’s still a first-rate writer.

  • Lucy Mcgee

    Winning just one New Yorker cartoon caption contest would be something I’d consider a small non-political victory, unless of course the nature of cartoon was in some way political. Otherwise, since you inquire, there are a myriad of other topics of interest, which is why I choose to read and comment on Dr. Peterson’s writings, even though, from a religious perspective, I probably don’t belong here because this is the Mormon Channel and I’m neither a member of the LDS Church, or religious. Hmm.