What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures

128What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures
By Malcolm Gladwell
Little, Brown and Company, 2009

Review by Dr. Alice Waagen

I find Malcolm Gladwell to be one of the most entertaining and provocative writers today. His groundbreaking books, Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers challenge our assumptions and give us new ways to look at and think about the world around us.

In What the Dog Saw, readers get a special gift: A compilation of his best writings, which have been published in The New Yorker magazine. Each story is a gem, a well-crafted exploration of topics as varied as the ketchup conundrum and birth control.

Gladwell’s skills as a researcher and writer lie in connecting the dots between what would seem to be disconnected ideas, and once connected they add great richness to our understanding of the issues.

My favorite story in the collection is the one that generated the book’s title. In “What the Dog Saw,” Gladwell’s taps a unique research approach and views problems and issues not from his own point of view but though someone else’s eyes, someone close enough to the phenomenon to give us new perspective.

In this case, it’s the magic of Cesar Millan, dog whisperer and consummate dog trainer. How can Millan control even the most untrained and aggressive animals with a single sound and wave of his hand? Rather than interview dog owners and animal experts, Gladwell focuses on literally what the dog saw, how dogs perceive Millan and why it makes him so effective.

In many ways, I enjoyed reading these stories more than reading Gladwell’s books. Why? Because each story is a literary adventure, an unorthodox view of an issue that will make you think differently.

It is fashionable these days to talk about the demise of print media, especially magazines. It is my hope that magazines continue to be published, especially great ones like The New Yorker, because they allow talented writers like Gladwell to explore a wide range of fascinating topics.