I'm not sure when intellectual gimmickry first gained a foothold in the best seller lists and became a pop culture phenomenon. I think the pioneer in this was Marshall McLuhan, whose hobbyhorse was, tellingly, the nature of the media. But now everyone has an angle, and at some point, the process can be automated:
The Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator
My favorite so far is Blank: 300 Empty Pages to Fill with Your Own Fucking Theories.