Sunday, November 30, 2008

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

From the Publisher's Website:

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Brilliant and entertaining, OUTLIERS is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.

For me, Gladwell's books are very engaging. It's like he is solving an almost unsolvable puzzle in front of your eyes and is actually going to share the secret with you this time! It's very rewarding to read. Though Outliers is no Tipping Point (my favorite) it still works in just the same way.

Gladwell talks about people who just because of a different set of circumstances end up doing far better than their equal counterpart, a bit of the nature vs. nurture debate comes into play in my mind. Yes, some of his findings end up being pretty logical but they are not connections I would have made on my own without tons of thought. He uses a variety of examples to make his case.

I really liked the hockey tryout cut-off date example he uses. Because of the hockey tryout cut-off date of January 1st in Canada, people born in the few months following that always end up getting picked because they are the largest and most mature of all the people trying out. And then because they get picked and get the training that makes them the champions they become.

A frightening section is one where Gladwell talks about plane crashes. We get to read snippets of black box recordings and it's crazy how restrained some people in the cockpit were moments before a crash. Because, according to Gladwell, their culture has told them to behave in a certain way and to respect authority or higher-ups even if the higher up is in the wrong. I could go on and on listing all the examples because they all added something to his argument.

I thought it was smart how Gladwell uses his own family as an example because throughout the book he's basically making a case for how someone can't be a genius all on their own (which sometimes people claim) and there are many factors that play into their success. Using his family as an example helps show he really isn't trying to put anyone down with his arguments.

Outliers is an engrossing book full of logical but eye-opening arguments held up by great examples.

4.5/5 Stars
Review copy provided by publisher

Do you like Pop Psychology books, if so what's your favorite?


  1. I should actually be getting this one in a couple of days and can't wait to get started. I love Malcolm Gladwell -just ask Amee and Steph! If you go to you can check out all of his appearances on the Colbert Report. There's also a great speech he gave regarding spaghetti sauce on youtube. He has the nicest voice. Anyway, I was definitely intrigued by the concept of the book once I heard about it. Doesn't he say that there is a minimum amount of hours (numbering in the thousands) that one must put into a skill before they can say they've mastered it? You mentioned that one's upbringing is important to what they will become -that reminds me of Hillary Clinton's book "It Takes a Village" and I do love me some Hil Dawg. Great review and thanks for it!

  2. This is one I really want to read! Thanks for the review!

  3. I don't know if he says it in the book or not, but on Meg Cabot's blog here recently she mentioned it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Maybe she had just read the book. I can't remember if she gave a source for the info or not though.

    Anyway, I might have to check out his books because it sounds really interesting now that I know what he writes about. I must admit I don't read pop psychology stuff. It interests me but I've never read a book on the topic.

  4. I loved The Tipping Point, so I'm looking forward to reading this book too! Thanks for the great review.

  5. Do you know what? I love your range as a reader.

  6. Anonymous11:44 PM

    :-)sounds great. but I don't read book of this genre ) i think i should start some day- but not soon :) Awesome review :)

  7. Taren- Have you started it? He is freaking amazing! I saw his last appearance on the Colbert Report, LOL! I'm going to have to look into this spaghetti sauce speech... Yup I think it's 10,000 hours. Can't wait to see what you think of it!

    S. Krishna- It's great! I hope you love it!

    Amee- Yup that's the right number, I'll have to go over to her blog! I love his books, my person favorite is The Tipping Point but they are all great! I've read part of another book that is in the same spirit, Freakonomics and that's good too!

    avisannschild- I LOVE that book! Can't wait to hear what you think of this one!

    Beth- Aww thanks! It definitely makes reading an adventure for me!

    Veens- You should try one, they are really great!

  8. Anonymous4:13 PM

    *The Tipping Point* and *Freakanomics* have been my favorite "pop psych" books.

    I'm getting *Outliers* on audiobook ... thanks for the review!

  9. Dawn- The Tipping Point is my favorite of his and I really liked the part of Freakonomics that I read!

  10. Anonymous10:24 PM

    I'm glad you gave this one a good review. I bought it for a friend for Christmas. I also asked our work library to purchase it since I enjoyed Blink and Tipping Point. Freakanomics was also a fun read.

  11. debbiesworld- Yes it was good! Tipping Point is still my favorite though! I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!


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