At least since the New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell's first book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, became a bestseller ten years ago, publishers have churned out popular social science books, several but not all of them by New Yorker staffers (including a couple more from Gladwell), with short, catchy titles and long, friendly subtitles, and if one or other of them appears paradoxical, so much the better. Here is a very small sample: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything; Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions; Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking; The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations; Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us; Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness; Flip: How to Succeed by Turning Everything You Know on Its Head; Short Cuts: Why the Shortest Distance between Two Points Isn't Always a Straight Line. All right, I made the last one up. But you get the idea. The comedians behind malcolmgladwellbookgenerator.com have come up with such titles as Nothing: What Sandcastles Can Teach Us about North Korean Economic Policy and Blank: 300 Empty Pages to Fill with Your Own Fucking Theories.
LRB 3 March 2011 | PDF Download