Pushkin Industries, 2022
5 hours 11 minutes
Reviewed by Jack Corfield
Gladwell’s signature style is reliably on display in I Hate the Ivy League, a journalist’s perfect blend of field research and expert interviews that lend authority to his critique. His relatable, down-to-earth perspective and impassioned narration strike close to the heart as listeners learn about the racial and class barriers that tarnish the egalitarian reputation of this education system, however unearned.
The audio-only release popularized by Gladwell’s publishing company Pushkin Industries has once again stepped up the production quality, providing soundbites from interviews and locations in addition to Gladwell’s excellent narration. The listener is immersed in a world of academia that is easily understood and informative to people of all walks of life.
I Hate the Ivy League was part of Malcolm Gladwell’s acclaimed Revisionist History podcast on Spotify. The podcast covers many topics, and—like The Bomber Mafia of 2021—this audiobook is a collection of episodes on Gladwell’s self-proclaimed favorite topic: education.
Gladwell’s perspective is unique among mainstream political commentaries on our noisy neighbours to the south. Listening to I Hate the Ivy League can be a cathartic experience for those north of the 49th parallel. His breakdowns of the systemic corruption that stems from endowments, impractical spending, and misguided interpretation of standardized tests offers a better understanding of why the US education system is so often at odds with the ideals of its constitution.
Gladwell doesn’t have all the answers, but by helping readers understand what makes this system so broken, he makes a strong argument for change. In one chapter, he competes against his assistant in the Law School Administration Test (LSAT) to expose the misconceptions that pit methodically-minded prospective lawyers against quick-witted test takers. Gladwell includes interviews with the designers of the LSAT—a group of conversations that led to changing the exam’s format to address this issue.
In another chapter, Carlos—a child who comes from a traumatic and underprivileged part of the US—is recognized for his brilliance at a young age despite incredible barriers. Before the piece begins, Gladwell mentions that Carlos told his high school classmates he was the subject of the podcast the class was discussing that day; this is an excellent addition to the story not included in the original episode “Carlos Doesn’t Remember.”
Each chapter is a self-contained story told in 30–40 minutes, making the audiobook easy to integrate into daily routine. The chapters are identical to the podcast episodes, found for free on pushkin.fm, Spotify, and Apple podcasts. The introductions Gladwell adds to the beginning of most chapters provide a loose narrative thread to keep the themes and timeline of events from becoming too complex. At under $15, listeners are essentially paying for ad-free content. Those unwilling to buy this audiobook should listen to it in its original format along with Revisionist History.
Malcolm Gladwell is the author of many other bestselling nonfiction books including: The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, David and Goliath, Talking to Strangers, and The Bomber Mafia. He has written for The New Yorker and Washington Post. Gladwell has received the Order of Canada and The American Sociology Association’s first “Award for Excellence in the Reporting of Social Issues,” and in 2005, TIME named him one of their “100 Most Influential People.”