Gladwell’s first book The Tipping Point focused on the exact moment (the “tipping point”) when small ideas became huge ideas or when an enormous but unexpected change suddenly happened. He uses examples like the moment when an unknown shoe company suddenly became the latest craze, why certain TV shows captivated the public at a certain time or how rumors instantly catch on and are spread. This was the first book I ever read that connected current social trends with human behavior patterns and it was really cool. It made me want to read all of the others, and definitely my 2 favorites are Outliers and David & Goliath.
Outliers asked why certain people or groups achieve success, and the answer isn’t just “because they work really hard and get good grades” (obviously that helps, though). Sometimes the answer was that the people were born at in the perfect month to be the right size & maturity for Canadian ice-hockey teams – these statistics were incredible. David & Goliath looked at “underdogs” and why certain people defy all odds and are able to beat everyone’s expectations. The book gives examples where being underestimated can be an advantage (such as having a physical disability or having a tough childhood) and it discusses how beneficial it can be for a child to go to the most prestigious school they can. All of these can be referenced back to the biblical story of David facing the giant Goliath. Everyone thinks that Goliath should have won that battle, however the book lays out plenty of evidence that proves Goliath to be the clear underdog!
Even if you only skim the books and read a few chapters (ex: the hockey and Beatles chapters in Outliers, the dyslexia or ivy league school chapters in David & Goliath), I think you will love the way Gladwell blends science and statistics into his writing. Most writers keep the research by itself, but Gladwell’s unique style keeps the reader involved and forces them to focus on the books. He adds in loads of examples and helps people learn things and, more importantly, helps us question everyday facts that seem like certainties. It is a tough line to walk but Gladwell does this beautifully.