Michael Lewis & Malcolm Gladwell in conversation

May 19, 2021  • Aspen Words

Join Aspen Words for an evening with literary luminaries Michael Lewis (“Moneyball,” “Liar’s Poker”) and Malcolm Gladwell (“The Tipping Point,” “Blink”), who will discuss Lewis’s new book, “The Premonition: A Pandemic Story.” This taut and brilliant nonfiction thriller pits a band of medical visionaries, working under the radar, against the official response of the U.S. administration to the outbreak of COVID-19.


The news out of China was not good: there were signs that a new disease might be big—scary big, like a brushfire coming at you uphill. Authorities, medical and political, saw no reason to worry and little need for tests. Michael Lewis’s riveting nonfiction thriller pits a rogue band of visionaries, working under the radar, against the weight and disinterest of officialdom. It is a race against time, and the deadline is now … or yesterday.

ABOUT “THE BOMBER MAFIA” by Malcolm Gladwell

In “The Bomber Mafia,” Malcolm Gladwell weaves together the stories of a Dutch genius and his homemade computer, a band of brothers in central Alabama, a British psychopath, and pyromaniacal chemists at Harvard to examine one of the greatest moral challenges in modern American history.

Most military thinkers in the years leading up to World War II saw the airplane as an afterthought. But a small band of idealistic strategists, the “Bomber Mafia,” asked: What if precision bombing could cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal?

In contrast, the bombing of Tokyo on the deadliest night of the war was the brainchild of General Curtis LeMay, whose brutal pragmatism and scorched-earth tactics in Japan cost thousands of civilian lives, but may have spared even more by averting a planned US invasion. In “The Bomber Mafia,” Gladwell asks, “Was it worth it?”

Things might have gone differently had LeMay’s predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, remained in charge. Hansell believed in precision bombing, but when he and Curtis LeMay squared off for a leadership handover in the jungles of Guam, LeMay emerged victorious, leading to the darkest night of World War II. “The Bomber Mafia” is a riveting tale of persistence, innovation, and the incalculable wages of war.


Michael Lewis has published many New York Times best-selling books on various subjects. His most recent works are “The Fifth Risk,” “The Undoing Project,” “Flash Boys” and “The Big Short.” “The Blind Side,” published in 2006, tells the story of Michael Oher, a poor, illiterate African-American kid living on the streets of Memphis whose life is transformed after he is adopted by white Evangelical Christians. Before that he wrote “Moneyball,” a book ostensibly about baseball but also about the way markets value people. Both of his books about sports became movies, nominated for Academy Awards, as did his book about the 2008 financial crisis, “The Big Short.” His other works include “Boomerang,” “The New New Thing,” about Silicon Valley during the Internet boom; “Coach,” about the transformative powers of his own high school baseball coach; “Losers,” about the 1996 Presidential campaign; and “Liar’s Poker,” a Wall Street story based in part on his own experience working as a bond salesman for Salomon Brothers.

Mr. Lewis is a columnist for Bloomberg View and a contributing writer to Audible. His articles have also appeared in Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Gourmet, Slate, Sports Illustrated, Foreign Affairs and Poetry Magazine. He has served as editor and columnist for the British weekly The Spectator and as senior editor and campaign correspondent for The New Republic. He has filmed and narrated short pieces for ABC-TV’s “Nightline;” created and presented a four-part documentary on the social consequences of the internet for the British Broadcasting Corporation; and recorded stories for the American public radio show, “This American Life.”

Mr. Lewis grew up in New Orleans and remains deeply interested and involved in the city. He holds a bachelor’s degree in art history from Princeton and a master’s degree in economics from the London School of Economics. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Tabitha Soren, and their three children: Quinn, Dixie and Walker.


Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times best-sellers — “The Tipping Point,” “Blink,” “Outliers,” “What the Dog Saw” and “David and Goliath.” He is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts “Revisionist History,” which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and “Broken Record,” where he, Rick Rubin and Bruce Headlam interview musicians across a wide range of genres. Gladwell has been included in the TIME 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers.

This event is a collaboration with the Aspen Institute’s Science & Society and Health, Medicine & Society programs.

The Health, Medicine & Society Program (HMS) is the domestic health initiative of the Aspen Institute. Established in 2005, HMS brings together influential groups of thought leaders, decisionmakers, and the informed public to consider health challenges facing the U.S. in the 21st century and to identify practical solutions for addressing them. At the heart of most of its activities is a package of research, convenings, and publications that supports policymakers, scholars, advocates, and other stakeholders in their drive towards change.

The Aspen Institute Science & Society Program seeks to generate greater public appreciation for science as a vital tool to address global challenges, as well as foster a diverse scientific workforce whose contributions extend beyond the laboratory. To achieve these goals, we convene experts and thought leaders in solutions-oriented strategy sessions, mobilize a vocal and diverse constituency of science advocates, and implement significant outreach efforts.