Book Review: The Tipping Point

‘With the slightest push—in just the right place—the world can be tipped…’

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Never one to allow my finger to stray too far from the pulse, I started 2020 by reading one of the hottest books of the year. The year being 2000, but a hot book nevertheless. Malcolm Gladwell’s meditation on trends and statistical anomalies was a sensation twenty years ago, but I’m a busy man so I’ve just got round to it now. Back off…

The Tipping Point takes a number of case studies; Paul Revere’s midnight ride, crime in NYC, the return to prominence of Hush Puppies, and attempts to concoct an elaborate system of sociological changes spread over 300 or so pages. Gladwell sometimes overstretches in his eagerness to have everything fit his overarching theory, but his giddy enthusiasm also ensures that The Tipping Point is always compelling, if a little repetitive.

Gladwell is a divisive figure, but there is no doubting that The Tipping Point was ahead of its time when it first dropped two decades ago. The fact that it is still widely read and cited now is a testament to its ‘stickiness’ (to borrow a phrase from the book), as is its inclusion in the Guardian’s top 100 books of the century – the list that inspired me to read the book in the first place.

I enjoyed The Tipping Point, and I can see why it was such a huge success upon release but I wouldn’t say it is essential reading today. But then I once gave Amazing Spider-Man 2 10/10 on this very blog so what the hell do I know about anything?

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