Sunday, October 19, 2008

Snapshot Book Review: Blink

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
While the overarching theme of this book carries through, there is literally at least one topic in this book that should appeal to every reader. I found myself thinking of a different friend or family member at every chapter, thinking of how much they would appreciate a certain passage or vignette. My mom might be interested in the portion about clients who refuse to sue doctors whom they liked; while I and my BCS friends would devour the portion detailing the way ventromedial patients' lack of response to Damasio's gambling task mimics addicts' disconnect between knowledge and action. My formerly nationally-ranked tennis-playing friend Ben might actually read this book if I told him it contained a man's detailed analysis of Andre Agassi's forehand; and I would send this book to the brother, Travis, of one of my college friends, Tom, to give him hints on making his improv performances more successful.

No matter what your interest is, no matter what you think of the claim of this book--that is, "thin slicing"--you will find this book interesting. That is because Gladwell takes topics that are potentially inaccessible to the general public, such as neuroscience, art history, and physics, and turns them into stories. He then breaks the stories apart and explains each portion in order to use it to further his argument--that we can and should use "thin slicing" to our benefit rather than assuming it is beyond our control.

Blink fails only in that it does not succeed in making good on its promise to make its readers better at thin-slicing. The book gives us a name for those unconscious, snap judgements and decisions we make. That, Gladwell tells us, is the first step: becoming aware. He then describes ways in which other people have refined their abilities at thin-slicing, as well as ways in which thin-slicing has inhibited people's performance. However, the book ends short of telling us how we can accomplish the former and avoid the latter.

Personally, I am grateful that Blink did not become a step-by-step self-help book on becoming a better thin-slicer. I would be happy just to be cognizant of what thin-slicing is. However, at the outset of the book, this was not what I was led to believe would be the outcome of my having read Blink. Thus, as a reader, I feel that Gladwell did not make good on his promise, and therefore I cannot consider this a five-star book.

Still, it is highly entertaining. Anyone who liked Freakenomics will like this book equally well, or perhaps more, since I feel that it appeals to an even wider audience. Believe it or not, it was an even faster read.

View all my reviews.

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