Biography of Malcolm Gladwell, Writer

Malcolm Gladwell speaks at Pop!Tech 2008

Pop!Tech/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

English-born Canadian journalist, author, and speaker Malcolm Timothy Gladwell is known for his articles and books that identify, approach and explain the unexpected implications of social science research. In addition to his writing work, he is the podcast host of Revisionist History.

Early Life

Malcolm Gladwell was born on September 3, 1963, in Fareham, Hampshire, England to a father who was a mathematics professor, Graham Gladwell, and his mother Joyce Gladwell, a Jamaican psychotherapist. Gladwell grew up in Elmira, Ontario, Canada. He studied at the University of Toronto and received his bachelor's degree in History in 1984 before moving to the U.S. to become a journalist. He initially covered business and science at the Washington Post where he worked for nine years. He began freelancing at The New Yorker before being offered a position as a staff writer there in 1996. 

Malcolm Gladwell’s Literary Work

In 2000, Malcolm Gladwell took a phrase that had up until that point been most frequently associated with epidemiology and single-handedly realigned it in all of our minds as a social phenomenon. The phrase was "tipping point," and Gladwell's breakthrough pop-sociology book of the same name was about why and how some ideas spread like social epidemics. became a social epidemic itself and continues to be a bestseller.

Gladwell followed with Blink (2005), another book in which he examined a social phenomenon by dissecting numerous examples to arrive at his conclusions. Like The Tipping Point, Blink claimed a basis in research, but it was still written in a breezy and accessible voice that give Gladwell's writing popular appeal. Blink is about the notion of rapid cognition — snap judgments and how and why people make them. The idea for the book came to Gladwell after he noticed that he was experiencing social repercussions as a result of growing out his afro (prior to that point, he had kept his hair close-cropped).

Both The Tipping Point and Blink were phenomenal bestsellers and his third book, Outliers (2008), took the same bestselling track. In Outliers, Gladwell once again synthesizes the experiences of numerous individuals in order to move beyond those experiences to arrive at a social phenomenon that others hadn't noticed, or at least hadn't popularized in the way that Gladwell has proved adept at doing. In compelling narrative form, Outliers examines the role that environment and cultural background play in the unfolding of great success stories.

Gladwell's fourth book, What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009) gathers Gladwell's favorite articles from The New Yorker from his time as a staff writer with the publication. The stories play with the common theme of perception as Gladwell tries to show the reader the world through the eyes of others - even if the point of view happens to be that of a dog.

His most recent publication, David and Goliath (2013), was inspired in part by an article that Gladwell penned for The New Yorker in 2009 called "How David Beats Goliath." This fifth book from Gladwell focuses on the contrast of advantage and probability of success amongst the underdogs from varying situations, the most well-known story concerning the biblical David and Goliath. Although the book didn't receive intense critical acclaim, it was a bestseller and hit No. 4 on The New York Times hardcover non-fiction chart, and No. 5 on USA Today's best-selling books. 

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Flanagan, Mark. "Biography of Malcolm Gladwell, Writer." ThoughtCo, Sep. 8, 2021, Flanagan, Mark. (2021, September 8). Biography of Malcolm Gladwell, Writer. Retrieved from Flanagan, Mark. "Biography of Malcolm Gladwell, Writer." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).