Laurie's Reviews > Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
325742
's review
Sep 03, 07

bookshelves: self-help, non-fiction
Read in January, 2007

The funny thing is that I don't consider myself to be a literary or intellectual snob at all but I really feel that it is not reality television, not celebrity talk shows, and not pop punk records but instead this genre of books that will be the downfall of our civilization. The studies referenced in this book are sometimes fascinating (the only one I really remember is the online racial profiling test, that blew my mind) but are usually poorly cited. At best, they must leave even the most indiscriminate reader skeptical and, at worst, they seem to blatantly contradict Gladwell's argument (saved only by some fancy verbal footwork).

I think this genre of book is really popular because it allows people to feel clever and knowledgeable without having to do anything harder than pop a "book on tape" into their ipod at the gym. Maybe there's nothing wrong with that except that I worry that it's breeding this scary form of passive "learning" that doesn't involve asking questions or looking at primary sources at all and instead prizes this sort of indiscriminate trivia-munching that's worth little more than banal conversation fodder for Thanksgiving at Aunt Rosa's where we can all make outrageous claims together without the need to cite primary sources or even, you know, have a clue.

Or maybe I'm just being grumpy. That could be it, too.
179 likes · Likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Blink.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Dave (new)

Dave Great review. Like Gladwell, but there's something to be said for the genre where there's alot of flash and little substance. Thought provoking, however.


Laurie Thanks for the comment! I actually think I might like Gladwell as a person and, to be fair, I did find some parts of the book interesting (such as the racial profiling study).


Alexzia I agree. I did listen to the audio book (at work and not the gym) and I did feel smarter. But I think if I ever tried to construct a valid argument using the book as a source, I don't think I could. I really like the author and want to read his other books, but your comment to be cautious with this kind of pop knowledge is well taken. It is a very interesting read, and it should be the beginning of learning and not the be-all-end-all on someone's knowledge of the subject.


Laurie It is a very interesting read, and it should be the beginning of learning and not the be-all-end-all on someone's knowledge of the subject.

Exactly! I should have just said that and my review could have been way shorter!


MacKenzie totally. but to glean information from primary sources requires independent critical thought. which requires intellectual curiosity. and that is in short supply these days. i still think reality tv is mostly responsible, but books like this are even worse because they fool people into believing they are using their wasted brains, when in actuality neither they nor, apparently, the author is capable of critical thought or logical argument. because of reality tv. ;)


Tina Dyer But folks, this is still better than "Desperate Housewives." Uncited information is rife--when was the last time you saw a source cited in (any) internet article?--and, while I agree that citing sources validates the findings, how many people actually read the citations? If you are publishing pop nonfiction like this, why spend the extra money printing twenty pages of notes that no one reads? The fact of the matter is that this sort of knowledge "compendium" isn't consulted by anyone doing scholarly work, so what's wrong with tailoring the book for the habits of its intended audience?


Mugo i totally agree with laurie, but i think reality tv is as bad!

@Tina. citing references does not involve 'printing notes'. only those interested in proving the veracity of the published material or to learn more on the subject need read the source (at their own expense anyway). giving citations however gives confidence to 'all of us' in the sense that the author is giving sort of a guarantee that the material is not 'cooked'.


Lorileinart I enjoyed your excellently-worded review, but I think I disagree. I will "cite" as my example the excellent dialogue above that has been created as a result of Gladwell's book. A moron could just as easily listen/read Nietzsche or Freud...but if the work doesn't spark their curiosity, then even something brilliant misses its mark. This book, cited or uncited, at least makes the reader think about the world around them...and that's got to be better than an afternoon spent with Maury, Jerry, & Oprah.


message 9: by Laurie (last edited Dec 27, 2008 06:11PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Laurie @lorileinart
Ha! Good point! I can't remember the last time Freud inspired me to do anything but take a nap. Oh, and wash my mouth out with soap.

@peter
Ok, ok. Reality TV is as bad.

@tina
Actually, what a lot of publishers are doing now is posting the citations online so that folks can look them up instead of killing a bunch of trees to post them in the back of the book.

And I actually do look at them sometimes, and I know a lot of other people who do, too. I mean, I don't look at ALL of them (god, I'm not that dull!), but sometimes something sparks my interest and it's nice to be able to check the source. I especially like to see the sample size, how the study participants were chosen, etc. It's easy to vaguely reference a study in such a way that backs up your own point, but sometimes when you go back and look at the actual study, the results aren't nearly so black & white.

The only reason I'd say this is worse than Desperate Housewives is that something like DH owns up to being fiction, whereas Gladwell's stuff pretends to be irrefutable, without giving its readers a chance to do some refuting.

But, in general, I agree. I'm no snob and I think writing for your intended audience is a good rule of thumb.


Linda Couch Having studied at the doctoral level and been trained to critically review research, I completely understand your frustration. That being said, this book is for the "pop" audience, and I do think it serves everyone well when academic research topics can be synthesized for the general public, At least this author doesn't purport to have the answers to everything unlike many of the business and management authors I see on the tables at Barnes & Noble.


message 11: by Lara (new)

Lara Good review. I gave up on Malcolm Gladwell after he "reviewed" To Kill a Mockingbird

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/20...

Talk about not investigating the source material. Whew!


Hannah My biggest problem with these pop psychology books is that the authors tend to be journalists who don't use the proper terminology. They make "unconscious" thinking sound fancier than it actually is.


message 13: by Jagrut (new)

Jagrut Gadit after going through many such books i tend to agree with your following statement 'not reality television, not celebrity talk shows, and not pop punk records but instead this genre of books that will be the downfall of our civilization' this may look a bit too hard but is really quite prophetic


Phillip "indiscriminate trivia-munching'' haha! best thing I've read all day, but such a good term for something people often confuse for intelligence.


message 15: by Elle (new) - rated it 3 stars

Elle Are you saying that useless information from reality TV and such is more useful and beneficial than a collection of mildly interesting stories like presented in Blink? I don't see anything wrong with listening to this at a gym either. You're going on an intellectual journey WHILE you're doing something helpful for your body! How do you even know that people aren't looking up the things they hear about in the book because they're interested to know more? Why can't this 'genre' of books just be introductory lit before you branch off into deeper stuff?


Azriel Odin get off your bloody high horse


Teeero Perfect perfect review. Gladwell also decided that a correlation of 0.54 was good, as opposed to chance. Then I found out he was just a journalist, sigh


Halkawt Nice


message 19: by Rob (new) - added it

Rob Schumann "...that it's breeding this scary form of passive "learning" that doesn't involve asking questions or looking at primary sources at all and instead prizes this sort of indiscriminate trivia-munching that's worth little more than banal conversation fodder for Thanksgiving at Aunt Rosa's where we can all make outrageous claims together without the need to cite primary sources or even, you know, have a clue."

This ^.
Along with other similar pop-psydo psych books, Gladwell's material is entertainment at best.


message 20: by Kaaren (new)

Kaaren Nafar Very witty review. I couldn't agree more. I read his other book, The Tipping Point, and I was more disappointed than when I finished Fifty Shades of Grey. No, let me correct that. I finished neither book. I refused, I REFUSED, to waste time finishing the books.


back to top