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Saturday, April 30, 2016

WHAT the DOG SAW and OTHER ADVENTURES (audiobook) by Malcolm Gladwell

Published by Hachette Audio in 2009
Read by the author, Malcolm Gladwell
Duration: 12 hours, 49 minutes

This fascinating audiobook is actually a collection of articles that Malcolm Gladwell has written over the years. Each story is about 30-45 minutes long and cover a great variety of subjects. Topics include ketchup, mammograms, FBI profilers, pit bulls, menstrual cycles, Ron Popeil (founder of Ronco), the dog whisperer, plagiarism, the Challenger Explosion/risk, home hair coloring products and the opportunities that those products offered for female executives, first impressions/job interviews, homelessness and how to solve it (really!), The Pill, Enron and the importance of having a great teacher in every classroom.

I am a teacher and I was of course interested in his discussion about teachers. What was best was his emphasis on the day-to-day interaction between students and teachers and how one can observe quality education in action. What was worst was the insistence that a standardized test can really identify good teaching. There are so many variables that go into a one time standardized test such as overall climate of the school, the day-to-day mood and health of the students and the teacher, the students' personal lives (at home and at school) that I would compare it to a giant stew rather - and it is hard to figure out what makes a great stew great. Is it the meat, the potatoes, the broth, the temperature it was cooked at, the way the ingredients were cut, and so on.

The article about one of the creators of The Pill was tedious at best. Unfortunately, it comes fairly early and I decided while I was listening to it that if there was another one like this one I was going to bail on the whole audiobook.

Malcolm Gladwell.
Photo by PEN American Center

Thank goodness I didn't. The rest of the book is really very interesting and provided some good discussion fodder between my daughter and I as we carpooled to school in the morning.

The Enron article was mind-blowing for me. It was a massive scandal when Enron collapsed but the fact that they were doing was literally posted on their website and the IRS had figured it out beforehand (they did nothing because it wasn't illegal, just really, really stupid) makes me wonder about the people who rate stocks and investments. 

The article on homelessness hit the listener in the gut in multiple ways. By not dealing with it, we are making it much, much, much more expensive and gumming up the works in other areas, like emergency rooms. But, by dealing with it do we break faith with people who are doing things "the right way" but not having much success.

The book was read by the author. He has a lot of experience being interviewed and participating in panel discussions on TV and radio so it wasn't like he was a complete rookie in front of the microphone. There are times when he has a peculiar way of saying a word but I think it really was an overwhelmingly positive experience having him read the book. His slightly quirky reading style matched his offbeat topics and writing style making the whole experience feel like Gladwell was riding in the backseat of the car telling you all about some topic that he thought was interesting and was sure that you would to. 

And, he was almost always right.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: What the Dog Saw.

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