I like that. I think I'll use that as the title for my first book: Contrary to Popular Belief. I'm not sure what it's about yet, but it's a killer title.
It might be about Malcolm Gladwell. When people have asked me what sort of writing I wanted to do, I have often said, "I want Malcolm Gladwell's job." That is, I want to write lengthy non-fiction about fascinating topics that have real relevance and make you stop and think. But I got to thinking: what does Malcolm Gladwell write about? How can you describe what he does?
Eventually I found the pattern. Almost everything Gladwell writes about is some way in which research or analysis shows that what we would expect to be true, isn't. He takes some commonly held belief about the world, and then stands it on its head. For example:
I could go on for pages, but why bother? Look for yourself in Gladwell's archive of New Yorker articles and you'll see the pattern again, and again, and again. It's a really good pattern – almost guaranteed to be engaging, interesting, and relevant.
So, now I have the formula, right? Maybe . . . but first I'll have to see if I can reproduce it. Just because I know what he's doing, doesn't mean I can do it . . . contrary to popular belief . . .