You can see where I'm going with this. I haven't read Outliers, or the Tipping Point (I started it, but quickly gave up), or Blink, yet I'm not a Malcolm Gladwell fan. I'm confident I won't be impressed by Outliers. Usually I wouldn't care, but I feel obiged because of what a guru he's often presented as, so I guess I'll have to read the book.
It's easy to pinpoint where he lost me as a potential fan. It was here. He's responding to criticism from Megan McArdle. I didn't (and still don't) like the tone of his post. But I still can't really believe how he tried to resolve the disagreement, which was basically that this random blogger was disagreeing, not with him, but with two "exceedingly prestigious" Harvard economists.
I have two problems with this. First, he shouldn't pretend that these were not also his conclusions as he seems to when he says, ""Gladwell" does not attribute Irish success to falling birth rates. David Bloom and David Canning do." but what I really don't get is how he planned to respond when he discovered that another two economists disagreed. Would he be astonished? Would he immediately abandon his position?
Anyway, I enjoyed this post by Clive Crook which sounds about right to me. There's a definite tone here too, but that's ok because I agree with him:
The man has a nose for interesting tales, I grant you, but his unfailing combination of intellectual parasitism, credulity, false modesty, and self-importance repels me. In “Tipping Point”, “Blink” and those of his New Yorker pieces I have read, the formula is always the same: find a scholarly opinion; sanctify said opinion with Gladwellian approval (transforming it from a disputed theory to something “we now know”)...
... As for the idea that nature and nurture are both involved in determining one’s success or failure–am I asked to believe that this is a new insight, for heaven’s sake? I learn from other reviews that Gladwell has also arrived, through the research for this book, at the discovery that “practice makes perfect”. Yes, I was surprised too; once again conventional wisdom is turned on its head. There is a rather important academic paper about it.