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Outliers: The Story of Success | [Malcolm Gladwell]

Outliers: The Story of Success

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2008 Malcom Gladwell; (P)2008 Hachette Audio

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  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 10-29-11
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 10-29-11 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

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    "A bit fluffy, but enjoyable"

    ***1/2

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Williamsville, NY, United States 04-04-11
    Michael Williamsville, NY, United States 04-04-11 Member Since 2001
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    "I enjoy Gladwell's writings"

    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)

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katy Crumpton 01-25-10 Member Since 2013
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    "Very thought provoking."

    This book caused me to re-evaluate my perceptions of success and how it is achieved. It is a great listen for parents of young children since parents can have a major influence on many of the contributing factors of success that are mentioned in this book. Enjoyable on many levels.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Nedreberg Eureka, Utah 11-09-09
    Thomas Nedreberg Eureka, Utah 11-09-09 Member Since 2015
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    "Taking the mystery out of Outliers"

    I've seen Malcom Gladwell speak twice and read both "Tipping Point" and "Blink," which I really enjoyed but "Outliers" is his crowning work. The book is written in an organized way yet displays profound out the box thinking. Many of us like to think of our heros as truely exceptional people but Mr. Gladwell shows us in his book that many times it's taking what's been given to us, practicing, and being in the right place at the right time. I enjoyed the entire book but what most impressed me was his personal tale about himself, his mother, and grandmother and how being an Outlier has more to do with what went before us then what we actually were able to do ourselves. I liked how the book made me think about how even if I wasn't an Outlier that by me providing opportunities as a teacher or a parent that I may help a future Outlier.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leah C. Day 09-14-09
    Leah C. Day 09-14-09 Member Since 2009
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    "Interesting"

    This was a pretty interesting book. I don't agree with all of the reasoning, but it's an interesting theory.

    The one downside to this book is that if you're looking for motivation, it might work the opposite effect.

    This book is about how luck and certain circumstances make you more likely to be successful such as your birthdate, ethnicity, and religion.

    If you easily see your circumstances as beyond your control, you may read this book and feel disheartened that you're not lucky or have the right circumstances to be successful.

    I believe luck is part of it, but drive and ambition are also important too. You DO have the power to alter your circumstances, even if you've not been given special advantages.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sierra Bravo 06-24-09 Member Since 2002

    Semi retired small business person/ college professor/ investor.

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    "Some interesting thoughts to ponder"

    This is a well-written book that brings up some important things to think about. Gladwell's conclusion that you need to be lucky as well smart and hardworking to be hugely successful is probably true. To get really far out on the bell curve you need for everything to go right, or wrong, depending on which side of the curve. Still it is dangerous to draw too many conclusions from extreme outliers, at least when dealing with a standard bell curve. If you are interested in what makes rich people rich read "The Millionaire Next Door", it deals with the more applicable part of the curve for most of us. Drawing conclusions from relatively few data points is always risky but Gladwell shows clearly the a small head start can get you far ahead.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret Dublin, CA, United States 05-12-09
    Margaret Dublin, CA, United States 05-12-09 Member Since 2008
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    "Very good parenting book"

    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.

    11 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen 03-18-09
    Stephen 03-18-09
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    "Are you and outlier? How did you become one?"

    The outliers in this book are people who have either succeeded or failed beyond expectation. Besides intelligence, what other factors make people extremely successful? Some of the questions that are posed and answered are:

    Why are most professional hockey players born Jan-
    Mar?
    Why were 9 of the top wealthiest men of ALL time (cleopatra to present) born in the 1830's?

    Why are many of the key people in computer technology born between 1953 and 1955? W

    hy did some immigrant groups do better than others?

    Why do asians do better in math?

    These are interesting questions and interesting observations are provided. It is not clear if even the author has an overall opinion of if you can control your own destiny. He swings from chapters where when you were born is the largest factor, to other cases where simply working hard and smarts gets you ahead. Perhaps the answer is you need both to become a Bill Gates or a Rockefeller. However, he makes an excellent case of how external factors often set you up for success.

    The other concept that is presented is the idea of working hard enough and long enough at something to become expert at something. Those that were wildly successful were experts at the right time in history.

    The audio book is not referenced so if you want to read the studies cited for yourself, you will need to get the book.

    If you have read Drunkard's Walk and Supercrunchers, this is an interesting and important addition to the factors that govern success.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John MENLO PARK, CA, United States 01-17-09
    John MENLO PARK, CA, United States 01-17-09 Member Since 2007
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    "Mildly Disappointing"

    I really enjoy Gladwell's articles for The New Yorker, and I've read his other two books, but in this one I found the evidence he presents for his "thesis" to be flimsy at best. It's posing as science, but awash in anecdotal evidence. I had a hard time taking it seriously after a while. I would not recommend to a friend except in excerpts.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Qasim Mohammad Rockville,MD 12-07-08
    Qasim Mohammad Rockville,MD 12-07-08 Member Since 2010

    AQMAISNIAME

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    "A Must Listen!"

    I read a piece on Malcom Gladwell's book in fortune and decided to listen to it. I got hooked to it right away.
    This is my first Malcolm Gladwell book and after listening to this one, I am going to listen to his other works as well.
    I took a star off because I don't agree with Malcom Gladwell 100% although I must admit, I kept saying to myself, "hmmm interesting observation...." listening to his arguments.

    There were a few success stories I can totally relate to (success story of my grandfather being one. At times Gladwell is able to convince the listener to wonder if he or she has the combination of right ingredients to be successful.

    I agree with Gladwell when he argues success has little or nothing to do with having a high IQ or a low IQ. Rather, success is substantially a product of "practical intelligence" or how i like to call it is street smartness.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
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  • David
    DUNDEE, United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Great narration and interesting subjsect"

    I have listened to or read a number of books which cover similar topics and found this to be an excellent listen. This was the first time I listened to anything from Malcolm Gladwell and I found it a very easy listen and an interesting subject. I particularly like audio books which are narrated by the author of the books as they are able to emphasis the parts which they intended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Hidde
    Amstelveen, Netherlands
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Very interesting read"

    Some Non-Fiction books which include research can be somewhat boring, I need to make sure I don't loose attention with these books, but not with this one (at least not until the last chapter). There's a lot of storytelling in this book which gives new insights into what makes humans successful. I would recommend this book to anyone who's interested in becoming successful... and who isnt?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Athula
    Abingdon, United Kingdom
    4/8/13
    Overall
    "An outlier in itself"

    This is a fascinating book and in some ways an outlier in itself. I was hooked and could not turn off from listening to it (at least the Part-I of it). I think Part-II is a little bit more of the fillers and he has run out of things to say and continue with the rant (althouh occasionally you will find some useful things). But the first part is gold and I was so impressed and bought the kindle edition and gave it to my teenage son (hopefully who might have realized it is much better to be an outlier than the norm). The audio book is really nice, read at a phase thinking about the listner. Highly recommend to anybody who is interested in becoming "unusual" (given that norm today -- especially in 2013, is to become a failure -- look at the Euroland and Eurpoe in general), and would like to know what it might have taken some outliers to be successful (the forgotten norm in the not too distant past).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • IYER
    Singapore, Singapore
    12/24/12
    Overall
    "Spellbinding"

    A tour de force from Malcolm Gladwell – again! Gladwell throws up multiple examples in an attempt to answer a generic question – what drives success. While other have attempted to answer this question from the standpoint of psychology, history, and even climate, Gladwell takes the micro approach in trying to see what determines peculiar cases of success, and whether the received knowledge and consensus views on the ingredients of success holds true. The results are a surprise, and eye opening!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Paul
    Reading, United Kingdom
    11/1/12
    Overall
    "Read it"

    Everyone should read this book. Particularly if you have kids. But even if you don't. And it will give you a new appreciation of the Beatles musical skills.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Birgitte
    Taastrup, Denmark
    9/6/12
    Overall
    "Very entertaining and eye opening"

    I love the easy way of this author. He reads superbly, is funny, smart and very scientific, actually.

    One little thing, though: the book could do with a little cutting here and there, sometimes a bit too dragged out. But - great read nevertheless.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Wybrand
    JohannesburgSouth Africa
    7/27/09
    Overall
    "Interesting topics wrapped in great stories"

    Malcolm Gladwell not only brings across the facts, but keeps your thoughts captured by wrapping the facts up in great stories that makes it easy to relate to the topics! Great book!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Marina
    Abanto y Zierbana, Spain
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Excellent listening"

    A remarkable book. Really interesting and gripping. I mostly appreciated the final interview with Gladwell. Understanding how it works the success should contribute to develop further opportunities to our entire society. Clear to follow even for non-native English speakers.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Chris
    London, United Kingdom
    5/21/12
    Overall
    "Fascinating Insight into the Worlds Elite"

    Gladwell offers evidence on what really leads to success, and it's not what the self help shamans want you to think.

    This was a great source of reference, along with a few others for my own book on personal improvement.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Alistair
    Norwich, United Kingdom
    1/18/09
    Overall
    "Excellent!!"

    A really interesting book about what makes people successful.

    2 of 8 people found this review helpful

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