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Malcolm Gladwell’s last book, Outliers, was phenomenally successful, even if all it did was point out the obvious – that people’s success is largely dependent on the circumstances of their birth, their connections, and their hours of practice (10,000 being the optimum for a genius, apparently). In other words, in order to be Einstein, you have to be Einstein – it’s no good being Arnold Smith from two doors down, which is hard luck on Arnold Smith, if you ask me. Whether or not you agree with him, Gladwell is an entertaining guide, and this collection of essays from The New Yorker displays the same quirky intelligence and charm.Gladwell’s writing has the qualities of the best essayists. He is chatty, perceptive, impish and amiable. Reading him is like having a conversation by the fireside with someone very intelligent. He challenges your preconceptions, and takes nothing at face value, probing deeply into a series of subjects. There is the success of the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie and the Veg-O-Matic, a food processor, in the kitchens of the United States, which, he says, “like most great inventions”, were “disruptive”. He ponders why there are several types of mustard that all sell equally well, but no one can touch Heinz’s tomato ketchup. The taste of it “runs the sensory spectrum” unlike any other, it turns out. Or perhaps the reason is, as one interviewee puts it, “I guess ketchup is ketchup