In 2000 a feature writer on The New Yorker magazine published a non-fiction book called The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Malcolm Gladwell’s social science book has sold and sold and sold. Gladwell is now a publishing superstar who can command huge fees for public appearances and his influence has spread across the publishing industry.
Walk into any non-fiction section of a bookshop and you will see the impact of Gladwell’s book. There is book after book titled in the following style – Several Dramatic Words: How Something Changed Something. Lengthy sub-titles are common.
The insertion of ': How' into non-fiction book titles is so frequent now that it’s gone beyond cliché. It’s almost standard industry practice. Colon how was widely used before The Tipping Point but The Tipping Point became a tipping point for this style of book title (are you still with me?). There were a good number of these books that explained life and history before Gladwell's huge bestseller, but since 2000 there has been an avalanche of them.
Books revealing how something or somebody specifically 'Changed America' are also commonplace – apparently rock music, stand-up comedy and garden plants have all changed America. Somebody should write a book called The Gladwell Effect: How The Tipping Point Changed America.Thanks to his subsequent bestsellers, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and Outliers: The Story of Success, Gladwell is the world’s most dominant force in non-fiction. Together with another book with a mouthful of a title, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, The Tipping Point has shown that there is a vast market for non-fiction that explains life in an easy-to-understand way. The social sciences have never been bigger.