15 books author Malcolm Gladwell thinks everyone should read

Malcolm gladwellNeilson Barnard/Getty ImagesMalcolm Gladwell, pictured, reads — and recommends — a lot.

Malcolm Gladwell isn’t shy about sharing his enthusiasm for what he reads.

A 2015 New York Times article poked fun at how often he blurbs books and recommends them on social media.

The bestselling author has published multiple books and articles exploring human behaviour from all angles; he also recently launched a hit podcast.

We dug through years of his tweets, book blurbs, and interviews to find some of the works that have made the greatest impact on him.

'Irresistible' by Adam Alter


'One of my favourite books of the year,' Gladwell tweeted when this book launched in 2017. Alter, a psychologist at New York University, explores the myriad ways in which digital technology and social media are destroying our brains.

Gladwell gushed in his review of the book: 'As if to prove his point, Adam Alter has written a truly addictive book about the rise of addiction.'

Buy it here »

'A Thousand Pardons' by Jonathan Dee


In July 2013, Gladwell tweet-declared this book his favourite of the summer. It's a novel about a family living in a New York City suburb, the father plagued by depression and driven to scandal, and the mother left to find a new job in the city.

It's an example of 'powerful and moving accounts of ordinary people coming to make difficult moral choices,' Gladwell told the Globe and Mail later that year.

Buy it here »

'The Paris Architect' by Charles Belfoure


'The Paris Architect' is a work of historical fiction: It's the 1940s, and a Parisian architect is trying to find a hiding place for a Jewish man in exchange for money.

Gladwell told the Guardian it was his favourite book of 2013, and he picked it up 'entirely randomly, in an airport bookstore.'

Gladwell went on: 'It is a beautiful and elegant account of an ordinary man's unexpected and reluctant descent into heroism during the second world war. I have no idea who Belfoure is' -- he's an American author and architect living in Maryland -- 'but he needs to write another book, now!'

Buy it here »

'Just Kids' by Patti Smith


Gladwell told the Globe and Mail that this book was another one of his 2013 favourites.

It's Smith's memoir of her relationship with the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and of New York City in the late 1960s and 1970s; it won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2010.

Gladwell said: 'I finished it in one sitting, then wept. It's that good.'

Buy it here »

'Strangers to Ourselves' by Timothy D. Wilson


'One of the loveliest, most insightful books about social psychology that I ever read,' Gladwell said of this book on an episode of the Tim Ferriss show. It's a book he gifts regularly.

Wilson is a psychologist at the University of Virginia and in his book, he shares ways to know your unconscious self -- without too much introspection.

Buy it here »

'Merchant Princes' by Leon A. Harris


Harris explores the Jewish families who built some of the department stores that are still around today.

Gladwell told Ferriss that the book is 'about everything I'm interested in. It's about immigrants; it's about people figuring out and then conquering an unfamiliar marketplace; it's about all of the brilliant ideas that came to these guys as they invented the department store.'

He especially loves the 'extraordinary characters' and 'the way their personality is imprinted on their business.'

Gladwell said he gives this book to anyone he knows who works in retail.

Buy it here »

'The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game' by Michael Lewis


Gladwell says that 'Moneyball' and 'Flash Boys' author Michael Lewis is 'the finest storyteller of our generation.'

He considers him a role model.

'I read Lewis for the same reasons I watch Tiger Woods,' he told The New York Times. 'I'll never play like that. But it's good to be reminded every now and again what genius looks like.'

For Gladwell, 'The Blindside' is Lewis' best, a book that's 'as close to perfect' as any work of nonfiction.

'Supposedly about football (the title refers to the side of the field a quarterback is blind to),' he says, 'it's actually an extraordinary story about love and redemption.'

Buy it here »

'Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession' by Janet Malcolm


Gladwell considers Janet Malcolm to be his other role model as a nonfiction writer.

'I reread Malcolm's 'Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession' just to remind myself how nonfiction is supposed to be done,' Gladwell told The Times.

He loves the confidence she writes with. As he told the Longform podcast, Malcolm writes with the confidence that the reader has no choice but to keep following along -- unlike how he fights for the reader's attention with every sentence.

'Even when she is simply sketching out the scenery, you know that something wonderful and thrilling is about to happen,' Gladwell told The Times.

Buy it here »

'The Person and the Situation' by Richard Nisbett and Lee Ross


Gladwell says that University of Michigan psychologist Richard Nisbett 'basically gave me my view of the world.'

'The Person and the Situation' is the book that most affected him. He read it in one sitting in the summer of 1996.

In his new foreword for the book, Gladwell gave a hint as to why it's so special:

'It offers a way of re-ordering ordinary experience. It argues that when we perceive the actions and intentions of others, we tend to make mistakes. We see things that aren't there and we make predictions that we ought not to make: we privilege the 'person' and we discount the influence of the 'situation.' It speaks, in short, to the very broadest questions of human perception.'

Gladwell says that if you read that book, then you'll see the template of the genre that his books belong to.

Buy it here »

'Feakonomics' by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner


Aside from Gladwell, who else has made social science cool?

The economist-and-writer combination of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, naturally.

Gladwell loved 'Freakonomics.'

'I don't need to say much here,' Gladwell told The Week. 'This book invented an entire genre. Economics was never supposed to be this entertaining.'

Levitt and Dubner have since gone on to show us how we too can 'Think Like A Freak' -- read our interview with Levitt here.

Buy it here »

'The Opposable Mind' by Roger Martin


Amazon has thousands of books about CEOs.

Gladwell says you really only need to read one, 'The Opposable Mind,' by University of Toronto management professor Roger Martin.

The book 'explores what makes great CEOs stand out from their peers,' Gladwell says. 'I realise that there are thousands of business books on the subject, but, trust me, this is the first to really answer the question.'

Martin knows what he's talking about -- in his 15 years of serving as the dean of the University of Toronto's Rotman School, Fortune says that he turned a small, irrelevant Canadian B-school to a legitimate global player.'

Buy it here »

'Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do' by Tom Vanderbilt

Barnes & Noble

Written by Slate columnist Tom Vanderbilt, 'Traffic' investigates human nature from beyond the driver's seat.

Gladwell says that 'Traffic' is 'one of the heirs to the 'Freakonomics' legacy.'

Vanderbilt, 'a very clever young writer, tells us all sorts of things about what driving says about us,' Gladwell says. 'I kept waiting for the moment when my interest in congestion and roads would run its course. It never did.'

Buy it here »

'Personal: A Jack Reacher Novel' by Lee Child

Barnes & Noble

When Gladwell reads for pleasure, it's almost always a spy novel.

He's read hundreds of them.

When The New York Times asked him if he could suggest any book to Barack Obama, he said that it would obviously be the new Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series.

'It might be nice for (Obama) to escape for a few hours to a world where one man can solve every one of the world's problems with nothing but his wits and his fists,' Gladwell said.

Buy it here »

'Fooled by Randomness' by Nassim Taleb


Gladwell likes to write about compellingly cantankerous people. As of late, he's argued that the job of managers is to 'harbour and protect obnoxious and brilliant people.'

Early in his writing career, he found such a subject in controversial investor-philosopher Nassim Taleb.

In a New Yorker profile of Taleb, Gladwell said that Taleb's first book, 'Fooled by Randomness,' is 'to conventional Wall Street wisdom approximately what Martin Luther's ninety-five theses were to the Catholic Church.'

Buy it here »

'Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man' by Garry Wills


Gladwell has said that he'd never try to write about politics because there are already so many fantastic political writers.

He cites the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills and his presidential biography, 'Nixon Agonistes,' as a primary case study.

'A classic from the early '70s by one of the great political writers of his time,' Gladwell said. 'Written just before Richard Nixon resigned, it's as devastating a portrait of him as has ever been written.'

Buy it here »

This is an update of an article originally published by Drake Baer.

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