The Atlantic

Malcolm Gladwell Reaches His Tipping Point

After 20 years, has the author’s formula at last been exhausted?
Source: Amy Harris / AP

It’s a bit embarrassing to finish a book by Malcolm Gladwell—master of the let me take you by the hand prose style, dealer in the simple and unmistakable thesis—and realize you don’t quite know what he’s driving at.

Gladwell’s method is well established and, you would think, fail-safe. It’s one of the reasons his books have sold millions of copies. Among his other talents, he’s one of those “professional communicators” that public-speaking coaches always say we should emulate: First he tells his audience what he’s about to tell them, then he tells them, and then he tells them what he just told them. He should be impossible to misunderstand. I must be an idiot.

Another possibility is that nearly 20 years after The Tipping Point, his best-selling debut, the Gladwell formula is at last exhausted.

[Read: Malcolm Gladwell: Guru of the underdogs]

Confusion comes early in , Gladwell’s latest, partly because it isn’t the book we were led to believe it would be. Advance notices of promised that Gladwell would explain how we “invit[e] conflict and misunderstanding” when we find ourselves talking to stra … uh … conversing with people we don’t know. The subject is timely. If there’s one thing cultural critics have agreed to complain about, it’s that the Big Sort is nearly complete, and we have all retreated to our own socioeconomic and cultural bubbles, where exposure to people who think and act

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