In the spirit of introducing myself through the things I like, I now want to change tracks and go down the road of non-fiction for a bit. I have a passion for learning more about the world we live in. From documentaries on Netflix to paperbacks – I consume it all: wild animals, gruesome serial killers, biographies of inspiring people, objects that shaped history, ideas on what humanity will look like in the future, principles of the economy and takes on creativity and happiness.
The book I want to introduce to you is The Tipping Point – the first book I’ve ever read by one of my favorite non-fiction authors, Malcom Gladwell. Most of his work revolves around business topics and The Tipping Point is no exception. But to say his books are business books would be simplifying the matter greatly. He generally takes simple concepts that occur in our societal and capitalistic worlds that most of us see as given and investigates them incredibly thoroughly. The topics of his work are not merely for business-oriented people either, they are topics you will have come in contact with simply because they are fundamental to everyday life. But let me get into the topic of The Tipping Point to illustrate that.
The Tipping Point is a pretty forward title as the book is literally investigating the tipping point of how trends are made. One second, something is on few people’s radar and the next, it is virtually everywhere – that is the tipping point. Gladwell takes the idea that there must be rhyme or reason behind this phenomenon, conducts his own research and finds sources from different industries and circumstances to explain the elements that go into creating a trend.
His findings are so divers and fascinating that each chapter is like a different story entirely which makes it very easy to read and to enjoy. It’s hard to give examples without giving away too much of what makes this book interesting but I especially enjoyed the part about the making of Sesame Street and what in its format makes it one of the most successful children’s television programs. And no, it can’t have been nostalgia induced fascination because Sesame Street was not something I grew up watching.
After the explanatory chapters of each factor contributing to something reaching the tipping point, the theories are illustrated with three case studies – again, very divers and very well researched. I especially liked one about the case of the rise of cigarettes and their continued presence even though everyone knows better now.
Throughout the book, Gladwell maintains his way of making his research entertaining and personal, talking about his methods and the people he talked to as well the theories themselves in fairly easy language. I might be slightly biased as I do have somewhat of a business background but then again I’m not a native speaker and had no problems with it. His writing is not only very readable but also incredibly engaging and entertaining for non-fiction and his findings are extremely interesting and affect everyone – if you know it or not.
I can also recommend the rest of Malcom Gladwell’s work wholeheartedly as I have read it all – his books that is; I can’t speak for all of his work for The New Yorker but I’m assuming it’s great as well. He has also held a number TED Talks and other speeches on several of his books as well as other topics of general interest and importance, which I can also recommend. His latest publication, David & Goliath, is about the whole underdog situation. Outliers looks at the parameters that make high achievers just that. Blink is about snap judgements and the power of not thinking. And finally, What The Dog Saw is a collection of questions he pondered for The New Yorker.
I know that this review isn’t nearly as long as the previous ones and a lot less detailed as well. I have though about the issue and I think that for me – and possibly for others too – the difference between non-fiction and fiction is this:
Fiction (and all storytelling really) is about the journey, about the plot, the characters, the setting, the visuals in your head and all the little details. So, me explaining the major events and tentpoles, my takeaways and impressions gives you an idea of what to expect but won’t take away from your pleasure in it. The pleasure is in the journey and a lengthy review still won’t be able to create what you consume fiction for – the emotions and the details that make a story great.
Non-fiction is about gaining knowledge. I am not saying that the storytelling and the details aren’t important – the style of a documentary makes it chilling or thrilling and the details of a person’s every day routine make a biography relatable – but the main goal of non-fiction for me is to educate. So giving away more of the content, the theories and the outcomes would be to essentially make your consumption of the non-fiction work I talk about redundant.