Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell

Born in Fareham in the English county of Hampshire, but raised in the rural town of Elmira in Ontario, Canada, Gladwell was one of three boys raised by their English father, a professor of mathematics and engineering, and their Jamaican mother, a psychotherapist. Gladwell's father relocated the family from England to Ontario when he was six, to accept a faculty position in the civil engineering department at Waterloo University. Gladwell's biracial background and the circumstances in which is parents met is discussed at length in his book Outliers, which reexamines the nature vs. nurture question and how it relates to success, especially his own mother's. His fascination with the written word was instilled early by both of his parents. His father let him wander around the university's libraries, while he counted his mother his role model as a writer. After graduating from high school, Gladwell moved to Toronto to receive his Bachelor's degree in history from the University of Toronto. In 1982, while still an undergrad, he completed a short internship with the National Journalism Center in D.C, a conservative-leaning media-training course that has produced the likes of Ann Coulter, Jason Mattera and other political journalists. After graduating in 1984, Gladwell came to the U.S. and worked as an assistant managing editor at the right-wing publication American Spectator, where he also contributed. After a brief stint at a think tank, he worked as a reporter at Insight magazine where covered business and also freelanced for the New Republic. Despite claims of not having much journalistic experience when he joined the Washington Post in 1987, much of Gladwell's appeal and mystery is the task of separating fact from embellishment. He often credits his time working as a business and science reporter for the Post (all 10,000 hours of it) for shaping his journalistic trajectory. In 1993, he became the newspaper's New York City bureau chief and eventually left to join the New Yorker staff as a reporter and essayist. Since joining the publication he won numerous awards for writing and his work at the magazine served as the catalyst for his career as an author. His 1996 article "The Tipping Point" was expanded into a book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference in 2000 and introduced Gladwell's unique style of explorative thinking. Combining his gift for storytelling with academic social science, Gladwell created a style all of his own that resulted in best-selling books and can only be described as "Gladwellian." The majority of his books are couched in academic theory and his interpretation of the patterns and experiences that he draws from them. While this unique formula has lead to his massive success as an author and speaker, it is also the primary ammunition used by his very vocal critics. While Gladwell considered his books merely conversation starters about much more abstract subjects, when confronted with criticism, he often cites the academics that are responsible for the crux of his arguments. When accused of over-simplifying, he has stated that he believes it's a necessity to his work of translating academia to the masses. In an age when people and companies were flooded with information, Gladwell's hybrid genre of nonfiction was especially appealing to corporate culture. He even helped Simmons Market Research create consumer surveys based on the ideas in The Tipping Point. After the breakout success of his debut, he released his second book, Blink (2005) which studied the science behind first impressions and was inspired in part by Gladwell's own distinctive hairstyle; as he related in the book, he had been stopped by police in connection with a nearby crime, only because the suspect had been described as a black man with a large Afro. Gladwell's third book, Outliers (2008) looked for the secret to success. While his style had a wide appeal, the book's brand of "self-help" was especially appealing to the ambitious and upwardly mobile. David and Goliath (released in October 2013) dealt with the underdogs of the world and why hardship and trauma have positive effects and was also based on one of his previous New Yorker pieces. While his work at the magazine continued to serve as an incubator for his book ideas, Gladwell also wrote for the online magazine Slate and served as contributing editor for Grantland, a sports journalism website founded by ESPN's Bill Simmons. In addition to his non-fiction work, Gladwell also tried his hand at fiction for the first time, working on the screenplay for the spy drama series, "The Missionary" (2013) for HBO, but the pilot was eventually scrapped.