Published in 2013, Drunk Tank Pink feels like an attempt to capitalize on the same popular science wave that brought us Malcolm Gladwell and Freakonomics. Like the former, Alter summarizes other people’s research for his own conclusions, without giving real credit to the researchers whose work he uses as a jumping off point. In other sins (that may not be his fault- see my own delay in reading this book, which has collected dust on my shelves since I bought it back in 2013), he is telling me things I mostly already know. This means that a lot of the moments he intends to be punchy ‘wow’ conclusions are more of a yawn because they feel like common knowledge in 2020. An example of this is how names often make a difference our life and career successes- I don’t think anyone in 2020 is surprised or shocked to learn that a person’s name, including what it signals about race and class, has an impact on career prospects.
Overall this book wasn’t terrible, just a little boring. It did provide me a refresher on some pop sci studies that I’d forgotten about, but I won’t be holding on to it to reread.