Best Book Ever: Blink vs. Brave New World

Book covers for Blink and Brave New World.

What is “real” and how do you know it when you see it? Whether you’re a savage just entering the modern world or a highly quizzical writer with a need to understand human nature, the search to understand reality can be daunting. Along the way, you’ll learn how people cope to your fascination, amusement, and horror. Could there be a better match to help you question your reality?

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Book cover for Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

If I were going to introduce a series as I would fiction, The Tipping Point would be the first in the Malcolm Gladwell chronicles of the mind. But I was introduced to Malcolm Gladwell with Blink in the psychology portion of my Honors course “The Anatomy of Desire” so we’ll start there. Blink and the surrounding Gladwell books are all about challenging our preconceived notions. While you might assume Gladwell was a psychologist for all he writes on the subject, in fact, he’s just an excellent journalist. His curiosity about the world drives him to reexamine ideas we championed, investigating the science behind decision making and competing behaviors. In 2019, he’s going strong publishing Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know which examines how communication between humans can go so wrong.

  • Goodreads Score: 3.93
  • Length: 4 -Length is harder to manage in non-fiction perhaps, and an expose on cognitive science could certainly have gone towards daunting. Malcolm Gladwell keeps the books a pert but practical size.
  • Readability: 3 -Even though “Blink” is about science, Malcolm Gladwell explains by telling a story. Full of real world examples and in-depth descriptions of studies, Gladwell always brings his point home with clarity, sometimes making you change your own.
  • Language: 3.5- Gladwell’s writing is simple and direct, but he commands an ability to pair contrasting observations, remove the tension, and provide a new, interesting worldview.
  • Characters/Plot: 4 -Really, this one boils down to “How interesting is the content?” as far as non-fiction goes, and Blink is very interesting. Gladwell argues both for and against the usefulness of snap judgments with one of the tenants of the book being “Prejudices and false first impressions may be overcome through positive examples of people all over the world and experience

Overall Score: 18.93

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Book cover for Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

“Oh brave new world that has such people in it!” No, we’re not in Shakespeare anymore, but we are of him. In Brave New World, society has set itself into classes with all those not meeting the cut of “normal” people segregated into lands of Savages for their antisocial behavior. In the novel, one of the supposed Savages, comes to visit the new world. Fawned over for being an exotic, John navigates society with trepidation. The world is strange. The people sedate themselves, and while things go smoothly, no one really seems to feel anything about it. John comes to meet one of the World Controllers in hopes of getting answers, but only winds up more distraught. Continually considered a perfect allegory of our world’s descent into drugs, both controlled and illicit, Brave New World asks “Is it better to feel at the expense of pain feeling can bring?”

  • Goodreads Score: 3.98
  • Length: 3 –Brave New World is again in the Goldilocks range of decently sized books.
  • Readability: 3 -At times, Brave New World, feels a little dowdy, a little slow. Things are boring and oh my god Bernard, would you just quit whining?
  • Language: 4- Oh my, here’s where it hits. Brave New World is overloaded with salient language and quotable morsels. From John’s tirades to Mustapha Mond’s observations, I use bits of Brave New World as a bible still today.
  • Characters/Plot: 3.5 -An excellent question framed with the perfect players, how can you not love a book that hinges around the fact, ““I’d rather be myself,” he said. “Myself and nasty. Not somebody else, however jolly.”.

Overall Score: 17.48

The Verdict

Brave New World is universal. Nearly every US educated individual, and even more around the globe, will encounter it at some point in their schooling. Meanwhile, Malcolm Gladwell, though widely popular, isn’t quite a household name. But he should be. I came into this match thinking surely Brave New World would win, but as I reflect, the triumph of Blink becomes obvious. Huxley wonders about where the world may be going and what that might be like. Gladwell reveals what it is like, even when you really, really don’t want to believe him. For his exposure of truth in masterful ways, this round goes to Blink.

But let’s send Brave New World off with one last quote because it is so delightful.

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

-John, the Savage -Brave New World

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