I feel like ever since The Tipping Point, everyone and their dog has tried to write some version or expansion of that book, including Malcolm Gladwell himself. I’ve even loved some of those books, particularly Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick, which is similar to (and referenced by) Contagious, but suffers by comparison.
It’s interesting to explore what makes ideas worth spreading, why certain concepts “stick” with us instead of flashing in the pan, but this book doesn’t stick with any of its examples long enough to make an impact. At 200 pages it’s too short and too general to make the kind of lasting impact it itself catalogues.
Which is a pity, because the overall premise is strong. The idea that an emotional response or a story can help a concept spread is somewhat intuitive, but with a good example – particularly an unexpected one – it can still be an interesting one. But, of the two, only the latter is well illustrated anecdotally – the author’s cousin’s winter coat shopping experience is now in my memory, but I’m still not sure how a scientist’s story about visualizing a cough triggered anyone’s emotional response. Berger tells us that readers made an emotional connection in part due to a photograph accompanying the story, but it’s just a picture of someone sneezing – it’s not at all evident why this story was so popular.
Without an in depth look at each factor that contributes to an idea’s contagion, this reads like a brochure instead of a book.