Arts & Entertainment, Writing

How to Read

Malcolm Gladwell

Lesson time 12:16 min

Malcolm believes that you can’t become a great writer without being a great reader. Learn Malcolm’s strategies for critical reading.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Read to Discover Intent • Learn to Appreciate • Supply Context to What You Read • Reconstruct a Writer’s Thought Process


The way to keep your reader in mind as a writer is first and foremost to be a reader. And when I say that, I don't just mean someone who reads, but I mean someone who takes the task of reading seriously. One of the things that drives me crazy about bad book reviewers is that bad book reviewers are ones who-- the question they're trying to answer when they write their review is if I were writing this book, how would I have written it? And if the way the author wrote it deviates from the way the reviewer would have done it him or herself, the reviewer gives the book a bad review. That's being a bad reader. The good reader is the one who says, what did the author intend when he or she was writing this book? And if you feel like the author lives up to the intention, his or her intention, then the book is a success. Now, discovering someone's intention is not easy. It requires attention and work and thought. And it means you have to pause every now and again and reflect on what you just read. It means that you maybe shouldn't read in huge big gulps. Maybe you should read in little pieces so that you can chew over what you've just learned. Reading, when you think about reading as an act as consequential as writing-- it's not a lesser act. You don't read because you can't write or you don't want to write or you want to leave writing to others. Reading is of equal importance to writing. There is no writing without reading. Some people say, I write, you know, even if no one reads it. Nonsense. If no one read stuff, no one would write anything. These two acts, reading and writing, are symbiotic. They are coupled. And to do one well requires doing the other well. [INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC PLAYING] The problem with writing criticism, as it's called, is the word criticism. So people-- you know, we call a film-- someone who writes about film, a film critic. And the implicit assumption driven by that word is that the job of the critic is to criticize. That's not true. The job of the film critic is to appreciate. Sometimes in appreciation, what we do is we point out the things that are not worthy of our appreciation. But the real job is to point out the things that are worthy of our appreciation. There is no point to that. There's no point to being someone who writes about other people's creations if you're not enthusiastic about the world that you're writing about. So the thing that I look for in a book reviewer that I love-- there's a book reviewer for "The New York Times" called Dwight Garner. I just adore him. I never met him. I adore him. Why do I adore him? Because he gives you the sensation that he really enjoys reading books. It's as simple as that. And he looks for things in the books that he writes about that made him happy. And he doesn't think that his job is to be a downer and is to seek out criticism-- seek out reasons to be critical. One of the things that you learn, if you've written a lot of criticism, is that being...

About the Instructor

Ketchup. Crime. Quarterbacks. Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s books, these ordinary subjects have helped millions of readers grasp complex ideas like behavioral economics and performance prediction. Now, the renowned storyteller and best-selling author of Blink and The Tipping Point is teaching his first online writing class. Craft stories that captivate by learning how Malcolm researches topics, crafts characters, and distills big ideas into simple, powerful narratives.

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Malcolm Gladwell

In 24 lessons, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point teaches you how to find, research, and write stories that capture big ideas.

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