What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

A collection of essays written by Gladwell and published in the New Yorker.

Bite-sized is how I like Malcolm Gladwell, and What the Dog Saw contains some of Gladwell’s most memorable essays. His profile of Ron Popeil, creator of the Showtime Rotisserie, stands as one of the finest pieces of writing I’ve ever encountered, and this past spring I assigned it to my writing students, who were suitably enthralled. Gladwell gives you the greatness behind the showman veneer, as well as some of the pathos inherent in selling things on TV.

Another essay that gets me every time is the ketchup piece. Gladwell attempts to explain the conundrum whereby there are numerous kinds of mustard, but only one kind of ketchup, despite the efforts of Popeil-wannabes in creating artisanal blends. He connects ketchup’s potency to its near perfect blend of all five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami, taking stops along the way to discuss the problems with supermarket cola and the history of Grey Poupon.

The third essay I love combines the profile prowess of the Ron Popeil piece with the historical exegesis of the ketchup piece, and that’s the one about hair color. The woman in the profile is a real-life version of Peggy from “Mad Men,” only with far more moxie and determination and self-awareness. I’m hoping the publication of this book will tip off Matthew Weiner to yet another awesome kind of woman he could include in his already awesome show.

Many thanks to the kind folks at Little, Brown and Hachette Book Group for the advance review copy.

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