I loved this book! There is a reason I'm not a terrific ice hockey player (other than I can barely stand up on skates). I was born in the wrong month. Who knew? I was hooked from the first sentence to the last. It is very reassuring to know that people who have changed the world we live in are maybe not that different from any of us, but were instead at the right place at the right time. This book will make us all want to go out and change our educational system, look at what country the pilot of our plane grew up in and marvel that our Scottish ancestors took time out from their violent inclinations to have kids. Malcolm Gladwell has a gift for taking on topics that I have not found that interesting and turning them into mind twisters that delight. If he will now explain our economy we would all be better of for it!
His passion for his work is clear in his reading.
His obvious socialist leanings are in your face throughout the whole book. Unqualified statements, such as 'tax breaks are only for the wealthy' are abundant. The 'anti-individualism' mandate of current left-wing thinking dominates this work.
There is plenty of interesting research in this book, it is just presented in the authors very biased world view instead of a purely factual manner.
In a culture of conformity, it doesn't take a rocket scientist or even a statistician to predict that success is predicated on an individual's environment. This is not a book about outliers. It is a statistical substitution of social determinism for true accomplishment.
This is a very good book in the same way Freaknomics was a very good economics book. It goes beyond the myths of how to become successful. If you have young kids, it is also a very good parenting book, on what you should be aware of to give your kids the best chance to succeed.
Gladwell sets out to explain how the top people in any field were able to get there. The explanations can be very surprising. I was very engaged throughout the whole book. He talked a lot about education, and having been a public school teacher for the last 27 years, I found it absorbing, hopeful, and found myself wishing that I had known some of these things 27 years ago.
Gladwell narrates his own book, which sometimes turns out well, and sometimes not so much. Although obviously not a professional, he has a pleasing way of reading. I wouldn't be choosing a book on account of him reading it however. Still, it was very "listenable" and I enjoyed it very much.
Because Gladwell's "Outliers" were born into wealthy families, or at certain times, went to the best schools or whatever, they excelled at the creation of new technologies, wealth, etc. -- was at first reading an interesting and slightly novel idea.
But by the time I was finished I was struck with the thought that maybe President Obama had just read this book before he made his now-infamous claim that "You did not build that."
Yes. He needs to explain why American freedoms created the conditions for American exceptionalism and wealth which is a key factor in the evolution of these successful people.
I suspect that Gladwell's hidden motive for writing this book is that he is likely just another socialist hack who is envious of successful people and by attributing their success primarily to luck, can detract from their accomplishments.
The reasoning in this book was very thin. Gladwell takes a few anecdotal examples and builds a tremendously over-simplified theory of success. For example, he pontificates that the Beatles were successful because they had played long hours in a Homburg club, as if that were the only factor to their success. I found the book cloying and I really sorry I wasted my money on it.
It takes lots of actual practice to master something. It also takes opportunities that are not in our control. So basically, Gladwell is trying to prove Calvinism (hard work + predestination). Pinpointing the web of circumstances that leads to success is something that we obsess over as a culture and Gladwell provides a very interesting analysis of how this works. But I do not feel like I heard any revelations here that I did not learn from my father when he encouraged me to get internships as an undergraduate.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
In this book, Gladwell asks whether highly successful people, the elite athletes or powerful business leaders that society sees as "outliers", are really so different from the rest of us. Is their innate talent and drive so exceptional, or do they benefit from special advantages along the way? It's not the most controversial question -- we all understand the value of being in the right place at the right time -- but Gladwell goes deeper to examine how myriad factors like birthdays, cultural background, parenting style, and classroom time can be powerful determinants of success (or missing out on it). As with Gladwell's other books, Outliers is enjoyable for its case studies, which approach a familiar question with the kind of engaging narratives that a talented teacher might use to get his or her kids thinking about an issue from a fresh angle.
Taken as a whole, though, Outliers isn't a very cohesive work. Gladwell flits from topic to topic without much in-depth analysis or scientific rigor to tie them together. Sometimes his reasoning is overly simplistic (as in the "why Asians tend to be good at math" study) and he makes assumptions while showing little evidence to back them up. I get the impression he'd previously written a few articles on intriguing social phenomena (such as the hockey player birthday study or the way culture played into the Korean Airlines plane crashes of the 1990s), noticed a common theme, and cherry-picked a few more studies that he could massage into a book.
Then again, Gladwell's not an author you read for a deep, critical examination of an issue -- you read him because he challenges you in an entertaining way to think about a broad question. I consider this a worthwhile book if it gets more people to reevaluate the "self-made man" myth that still influences American politics, and to think about the powerful and complex roles that privilege and historical legacy can play in determining a person's success. If our society paid more heed to its structures of opportunity, there'd be many fewer children left behind, and many more who'd achieve their full potential as productive citizens. Even if Gladwell's own answers are a little fluffy, there's no doubt that he's getting us to think seriously about crucial questions.
I know there are some who are critical of Gladwell for glossing over facts and oversimplifying conclusions, but I have enough of a brain to be able to draw my own conclusions, some of which differ from Gladwell.
For example, Gladwell stresses the role of hard work and chance in those who find great success, but I think he underemphasizes the role of talent and natural ability. Sure, hockey players in Canada have a better shot at greatness if they're born in certain months, but you still need size, speed, skills, and even competitiveness to succeed. That fact sometimes get lost in Gladwell's analysis.
Having said that, I still very much enjoyed this book, the third I've read of Gladwell's (Blink, Tipping Point). I like his style of writing (and reading)