Elsewhere, in one of my other recent reviews, a GoodReads friend (Richard) told me that he had become less infatuated with this book after reading a review by a specialist in the field who gave it a drubbing. I was worried that knowing this might ruin this book for me - but it has not. I really enjoyed this one too. This is the third of Gladwell's books I've read in quick succession and this contained lots of information about things that have made me think and sparked my interest to learn more. It may well be that Gladwell's style does not appeal to an expert in the field - and that is quite likely to be true, but I've found that it is often the case that I've been introduced to themes by popularisers and later went on to read more deeply on a subject. I rarely condemn those who introduce me to fascinating topics - and this is a fascinating topic.
I'm not going to do a full review, but rather quickly talk about wine. While he was talking about coke and about taste tests I was thinking about wine.
He makes the point that when asked to judge jam people do nearly as well as the experts if they are just asked which jam they liked the most, but do much worse than experts if asked to explain why they graded them in the order that they did. That is, if they have to talk about texture and sweetness and citrus flavours - people change how they judge jam and end up picking the worst jam rather than the best. This is because we don't really know what 'texture' is and so trying to slot jams into categories that we don't really understand means we are most likely to stuff up and confuse ourselves.
Now, wine. I wonder if anyone has ever done a test at cellar doors to see what people end up buying and if they pick the nicest wine for the price, or do they buy vinegar instead I wouldn't mind betting that there would be something similar happening here - and if you are with someone who says things like, "Oh yes, fruity, but with a back-taste of coal tar" you might end up buying something that is quite disgusting. You know, unless you actually have some idea of what you are talking about, it might be best to shut up and drink the wine.
That is the point of this book - learning when to trust your "immediate reactions" and when to question them. I think there is much in this book that is worth knowing and much that is fascinatingly interesting. (The stuff about unconscious racism is so important that everyone should be forced to read this for that alone). But with Richard, I am a little concerned that an expert in the field didn't like this book. All the same, the expert does recommend Made to Stick so I guess that can be the next book I read.
There is - as is proven by Dylan Moran - only one way to pick wine: