Funny, Insightful, Heartbreaking
These characters are so flawed and make such terrible decisions that they are sort of a parody of the dark side of human nature, and yet, they are so funny and sweet and rendered in such an interesting way that you can't help but love them in spite of their exasperating mistakes and misunderstandings.
I have read all of Saunders' previous story collections and essays on paper and loved them, but to hear them read in his own voice, with his local-guy Midwestern accent was really a treat. The stories are really suited to oral story-telling. I would love to see Saunders read Civilwarland, Pastoralia and In Persuasion Nation for Audible, as well.
Some of the story titles are works of art in themselves. I particularly liked, "My Chivalric Fiasco".
If you have ever wondered why people seem to act against their own best interests, if you have ever wondered how people get into debt, or why people sometimes seem to treat one another cruelly, George Saunders characters are beautiful portals into the lives of people whom you might not otherwise understand. You understand what it is like to be a moody teenager, a sensitive child, soldier home from a war zone, a guy stuck in a soul-sucking job, or a parent who just wants his or her kids to have a childhood a little less painful than his or her own. If the intent of a literary work is get you to willingly inhabit the life of another and look at the world through his or her eyes, this collection is a literary accomplishment.
Malcolm Gladwell always finds interesting anecdotes and back stories to entertain the reader and provoke thought. I don't always agree with his conclusions, but the least of his writings are still pretty good.
Outliers is a 5 of 5 and many of the examples in this book (the 10,000 hour rule, the Matthew Effect) have become essential concepts of cultural literacy. I would recommend that readers new to Gladwell begin with this book.
As a parent with high school and college aged children, I found the big fish in a small pond chapter to be the most interesting.
I would read anything that Gladwell writes. He always has a fresh perspective. This is just not quite as good as some of his other work.
Malcolm Gladwell is clearly very talented at presenting complex ideas in a simple way, but sometimes he seems to over-simplify, draw facile conclusions, or cherry pick his data to support his conclusions. I agree with many of his conclusions, but I would advise readers to bring their own critical thinking skills to one of his books.
I do want to say that with the chapter on Dr. Freirich was pretty disturbing and I felt Gladwell seemed to feel that the end justified the means, which I considered to be debatable.
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