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The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

It seems the whole world reads Malcolm Gladwell. It’s usually middle-aged men with a social conscience or season tickets and a taste for socially responsible and head-noddingly approvable views on politics who read him but they’ll always highly rate his work. But he is very readable, accessible and informative.

Much of what he does here in “The Tipping Point” is predicated on anecdote. He starts almost every argument with an account of a social phenomenon such as the ride of Paul Revere on the eve of the American Revolutionary War or the fall in crime figures in New York in the early 90s. He meets a lot of people along the way and it can be difficult to keep up with all the personalities. What comes to the surface very clearly is that people are different and perform different roles in every social phenomenon there is. Gladwell characterises individuals as “Connectors,” “Salesmen” and other categories and demonstrates how “word-of-mouth epidemics” are dependent on many types of people.

What much of the book comes down to is simply how things happen and who makes them happen in the precise way that they do. There is a lot in this of course and it is an ambitious task. Once the reader accepts some basic tenets of his approach, the book becomes much easier to navigate, chief among them being that little things can make big things happen and quite suddenly.

There is a lot of history in the book, much social commentary and a lot of interviews with interesting people.  The research is impressive, the organisation of the information is very efficiently done indeed and the idea is always kept in focus. There is much to be learned here not just about the idea of The Tipping Point but about how to write a great book.

R.H.