Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About Strangers is out now, and I have to say that it’s his best book yet. Gladwell: A must-read for anyone who enjoys a good story. Revisionist History, his highly acclaimed podcast, has four seasons that I’ve listened to and thoroughly enjoyed. The guy is a genius in my book, and he’s quickly become my favorite author. It’s amazing how he can take microhistories and weave them into such captivating tales.
Because of my admiration for Malcolm Gladwell’s work, it occurred to me that I should spread the word about other writers and books he has written. So if they loved his books, why wouldn’t they also enjoy books that were a little bit like his? This is a list of five books with a Gladwellian flavor, in no particular order:
Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh
As a New York Times best-seller, this novel grips. Is there a person you know who would willingly join a dangerous gang in order to gain an insider’s perspective? I doubt there are many. Sudhir Venkatesh, on the other hand, did exactly this. His story drew a lot of attention after it was featured in Freakonomics for the first time. Gang Leader for a Day is a fascinating account of Sudhir Venkatesh’s journey into the gang, the lessons he learned, and how his method impacted the academic world. A gang leader named JT would befriend him and he would spend the next decade documenting what he saw in the projects under JT’s protection. JT and the rest of the gang ran their crack selling business, did community PR, and rose and fell in the gang’s complex organizational structure for seven years under Venkatesh’s watchful eye. In my opinion, this book is essential reading.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Is Racism still a thing in the world? Some would have you believe that it has vanished, but that is simply not true. No one can deny that people of color are disproportionately subjected to oppression and incarceration. About 475,900 inmates who were black were in federal and state prisons at the end of 2017, according to the Pew Research Center. We have not abolished racial caste in the United States, but we have simply redesigned it, Alexander argues in his book The New Jim Crow. It is Alexander’s contention that the US criminal justice system operates as a contemporary racial control system, even though its formal principle of color-blindness is adhered to. It’s a pleasure to read this.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Provocative and insightful, this New York Times best-seller is a must-read. Adiche’s talk at TEDx was well-received, and President Barack Obama called her “one of the world’s great contemporary writers” after hearing it. Adichie offers a new definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one that emphasizes inclusion and sensitivity to one’s own cultural background. Her answer to the question, “What does it mean to be a feminist in the twenty-first century?” is correct. This examination of today’s world by Adichie sheds light on a slew of issues that have long plagued women: outright racism, social exclusion, sexual abuse, and a host of other problems. As she explains, women and men alike are harmed by the gender divide. Many will be left wondering why we aren’t all feminists after reading this must-read. This one comes highly recommended from me.
Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The author, Malcolm Gladwell, may have been inspired to write Outliers: A Portrait of Human Success after reading this book. Nassim Taleb, according to Gladwell, “is to conventional Wall Street wisdom about what Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses were to the Catholic Church.” The book Fooled by Randomness explores how we make decisions in a world we don’t understand because of opacity, luck, uncertainty, and probability. What is the best way to think about and deal with luck? That was pure luck, we always say, or “She/he is so lucky.” However, how often do we pause to consider what luck is and how we deal with it in our daily lives, at work, in our business dealings, and so on? To these and many more, Taleb aspires. “One of the smartest books ever written,” according to Forbes, describes this book. Definitely worth your time.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
There is a good reason why this book has appeared on so many “must-read” lists and is on so many “To Be Read” lists. The quality of the film truly exceeds expectations. The story of Bryan Stevenson’s first case, which introduced him to Walter McMillan, is told in this book. On behalf of those most in need: the poor, those who have been wrongly accused, and women and children who have been imprisoned in our criminal justice system Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative. It was a world Stevenson could never have imagined when McMillan was sentenced to death for a murder he claimed to not have committed. Stevenson’s understanding of mercy and justice is forever changed by this book, which is filled with conspiracy, legal issues, and politics.
‘A Thousand Pardons’ by Jonathan Dee
Gladwell tweeted in July 2013 that this was his favorite summer read. New York City suburbs are the setting for this novel, which tells the story of a depressed father and a mother who has left the family to find a new job in the city.
Later that year, Gladwell told the Globe and Mail that it was an example of “powerful and moving accounts of ordinary people coming to make difficult moral choices.”
‘The Paris Architect’ by Charles Belfoure
“The Paris Architect” is a work of historical fiction that takes place in Paris. There was a Parisian architect in the 1940s who, in exchange for money, was trying to find a hiding place for an impoverished Jewish family.
“Completely randomly, in an airport bookstore,” said Gladwell to the Guardian, he picked it up as his favorite book of 2013.
After that, Gladwell went on to explain: “In the course of World War II, an ordinary man’s unexpected and reluctant descent into heroism is beautifully and elegantly depicted in this moving memoir. Belfoure, an American author and architect who lives in Maryland, “needs to write another book, now! I have no idea who he is.”