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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Be bold ... and interesting


“As a writer, the best mindset is to be unafraid.” – Malcolm Gladwell

I read my first Malcolm Gladwell book right after I had open heart surgery and I have to say that it’s not the best idea to do something like that because you’re trying to heal.  And it’s difficult to heal when you keep tearing open your incision by reading something that makes you throw your arms wide apart and say "Oh my God, I never thought of that!”

That book was Outliers: The Story of Success,  and I couldn’t wait to have people visit me while I was recuperating so I could share things from the book with them.  It definitely took my mind off the fact that I had this long gash in my chest. 

So, when Gladwell’s next book, What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, was released, I rushed to get that one too.  And I definitely was not disappointed.  Gladwell's books and articles often deal with the unexpected implications of research in the social sciences and make frequent and extended use of academic work, particularly in the areas of sociology, psychology, and social psychology.  And while that might sound dry, it’s absolutely the opposite and some of the most enjoyable and thought-provoking reading you might encounter.

Also optimistic.  “All my books are optimistic,” Gladwell said.  “I wrote my first book when I was in my late 30s, and I had so much optimism to share by that time.”  He said he may have gone through the angst of youth, but he didn’t write about it.  He has written 5 books now and all have been on the New York Times bestseller list.   A native of England who grew up in Canada, he has been a regular for The New Yorker since 1996 where most of his stories have originated.

When asked for the process behind his writing, he said "I have two parallel things I'm interested in. One is, I'm interested in collecting interesting stories, and the other is I'm interested in collecting interesting research. What I'm looking for is cases where they overlap.  Actually, I've had the most untraumatic life a human being can have.  But I've always been drawn to those who have had far more complicated histories.” 

And boy does that make for great reading.


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