I always struggle a little bit when reviewing non-fiction books because I guess you either accept the author’s point of view/thesis/whatever or you don’t. So this will no doubt be a bit waffly (why break the habit of a lifetime, I hear you cry)

So I’ve had this book for ages and just never got round to reading it until Silvery Dude mentioned that he had heard Malcom Gladwell speak at some work-related event and that it had been hugely interesting, and that was just the spur I needed to pull this off the shelf and have a go. But please note for the record this is not a Silvery Dude recommendation….

The Tipping Point tries to explain why some things just seem to take off in unplanned or inexplicable ways, and uses a whole range of examples to explain why that may be the case, from sexually transmitted diseases to preferences in footwear to children’s TV programmes.

And I must admit I found it all pretty persuasive – the idea that epidemics can occur in more than diseases (if that makes sense and I’m not sure that it does), the idea that there are certain types of people who can influence responses simply by the way they behave or their own particular personality traits, and so on – it all began to make sense.

But I have to confess that the thing that stuck with me the most took only a page to discuss, and that  was the effect on your personality of the order in which you were born. Full disclosure here; I am the oldest of three born across a six-year spread. I’m the only girl and my youngest brother was born on my 6th birthday. I’m not bitter (actually I am still seething quietly 42 years later).

But that’s not the point (well it is the point but not for the purposes of this discussion). The actual point is that all my life I have read that being the oldest makes me naturally domineering and conservative. Which isn’t me at all (well, I don’t think so anyway). What Gladwell points out (from work done by another sociologist) is that this is only true within the actual family; when with others we are no more likely to behave that way than anyone else.

I was quite pleased to read this, and felt mildly vindicated. Though the Book God pointed out that this means that my bossiness must be rooted in something else.

An unhelpful statement at best.

So all in all this was a fascinating read, and like the best books dealing with cultural behaviour it all seems like common-sense when spelled out. But none the worse for that.

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