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19th December 2008

WHO MOVED MY GURU? The economy may be tanking, but not Malcolm Gladwell. His new book, “Outliers,” a characteristically snappy look at what made the Beatles, Bill Gates and other superstars so successful, enters the hardcover nonfiction list at No. 1. Bet on it to stay a while: “The Tipping Point” is still hanging out at No. 7 on the paperback nonfiction list after 216 weeks, and “Blink,” which spent 81 weeks on the hardcover nonfiction list when it first appeared, has ridden the new book’s coattails back onto the paperback list.

According to rankings compiled last spring by Thomas H. Davenport, a management professor at Babson College, Gladwell is now the nation’s fourth-most-influential business thinker, measured by Google hits, media references and academic citations. No. 1 on that list? Gary Hamel, a hospital administrator turned M.B.A. with a long list of publications and decidedly boring hair. Hamel gave the world “core competencies” and “strategic intent.” (He also wrote a book back in 2000 praising Enron for what he continues to call its “uniquely entrepreneurial culture.” Oops!) Writing recently in the magazine Intelligent Life, Adrian Wooldridge argued that the rise of “journo-gurus” like Gladwell and Thomas Friedman (No. 2 on Davenport’s list) have upended the hierarchies of both journalism and gurudom, bumping political journalists out of first class while also stealing cheese from the likes of Tom Peters and Michael Porter.
 “The Tipping Point” was published in March 2000 just days before the Nasdaq peaked. So what tends to sell on the eve of a full-blown crash? Here’s the top of the hardcover nonfiction list from Oct. 18, 1987, the day before Black Monday:

  1.  “Veil,” by Bob Woodward. 
  2. “Spycatcher,” by Peter Wright with Paul Greengrass. 
  3. “Time Flies,” by Bill Cosby. 
  4. “Man of the House,” by Tip O’Neill. 
  5. “Family: The Ties That Bind . . . and Gag!” by Erma Bombeck. 
  6.  “The Closing of the American Mind,” by Allan Bloom. 
  7. “It’s All in the Playing,” by Shirley MacLaine. 
  8. “The Great Depression of 1990,” by Ravi Batra. 
  9. “The Making of ‘The African Queen,’ ” by Katherine Hepburn. 
  10. “Straight On Till Morning,” by Mary W. Lovell.

The Great Depression of 1990”? The trade economist Ravi Batra’s gloomy rediction of a seven-year global bust didn’t come to pass, but his book did soar to No. 1 after the market crashed, which also gave a boost to Tom Peters’s more upbeat “Thriving on Chaos.”In his most recent book, “The New Golden Age,” Batra, acknowledging that “three or four” of his last predictions were wrong and that “the cycle of depression has misfired” , appears to have bailed out of the gloom-and-doom trade just as business was about to pick up.

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