Malcolm Gladwell: What I Read
The author of 'Outliers' explains why he runs 24 hours behind the news cycle
How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? Do they have some secret? Perhaps. We are asking various people who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, filled us in on how he gets--or doesn't--his news.
Since my brain really only works in the morning, I try to keep that time free for writing and thinking and don't read any media at all until lunchtime, when I treat myself to The New York Times--the paper edition. At this point, I realize, I am almost a full 24 hours behind the news cycle. Is this is a problem? I have no idea. My brother, who is a teacher, always says that we place too much emphasis on the speed of knowledge acquistion, and not the quality of knowledge acquistion: I guess that means that the fact that I am still on Monday, when everyone else is on Tuesday, is okay.
I made the mistake of reading some of the earlier versions of this column, and I fear that I’m on the extreme low end of media consumption. I think that this is because I grew up in a family that didn’t get a daily newspaper, didn’t have a television, and never went to the movies. We just read books and went for walks. Not much has changed. I check in, every now and again, with The Awl, Espn.com and Crookedtimber.org but not much else. I subscribe to one person's Twitter feed: my friend Jacob’s. I try and read whatever he links to. But long ago I decided that I would basically outsource my political opinions to him—so I’m always left with the question of why, if I’ve already signed over my thinking to him, I’m also reading the sources of his thinking. Isn’t that inefficient?
On Saturdays, I replace The Times with the Wall Street Journal--which I think has a wonderful weekend arts section, and the weekend edition of the Financial Times, which has many wonderful things as well, including my fellow-Canadian Tyler Brûlé, of whom I am slightly in awe. Every once in a while I drop by the local magazine store, and buy my true love: car magazines: Car and Driver, Road & Track and—best of all—the brilliant English CAR, every issue of which I have read cover to cover going back to forever.
I try to get to Bobst Library, at New York University, about once a week, to make my way through my favorite academic journals. I don't really have a set pattern: mostly I just browse through the databases, or root around in the footnotes of things that I've liked. In the evening, before going to sleep, I read books. Right now I’m finishing up the Keith Richards autobiography. The great test of any memoir is that the author’s life has to be more interesting than the reader’s life. He passes that test with flying colors, although the bar is rather low in my case.