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Home » Books » Nonfiction » Social Sciences » Popular Culture

Outliers: The Story of Success

By Malcolm Gladwell

RRP $37.00 $19.95   Save $17.05 (46%)
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Format: Paperback, 320 pages, Open Market ed Edition
Published In: United Kingdom, 18 November 2008
In this provocative and inspiring book, Malcolm Gladwell examines everyone from business giants to scientific geniuses, sports stars to musicians, and reveals what they have in common. He looks behind the spectacular results, the myths and the legends to show what really explains exceptionally successful people. Gladwell argues that, when we try to understand success, we normally start with the wrong question. We ask "what is this person like?" when we should really be asking "where are they from?" The real secret of success turns out to be surprisingly simple, and it hinges on a few crucial twists in people's life stories - on the culture they grow up in and the way they spend their time. What does Bill Gates have in common with the Beatles? How does your IQ relate to your salary? What can a linguist tell us about airline safety? How does the way your child speaks to an adult affect their success in life? What do rice paddies have to do with maths results? And how can you predict a maths star without even making them take a test? Malcolm Gladwell has the answers. This book really will change the way you think about your life. And it will challenge you to make the most of your own potential.
EAN: 9780141036243
ISBN: 0141036249
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Dimensions: 13.6 x 20.3 centimetres (0.17 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years

Reviews

Let's cut to the chase and say that all libraries should buy this book, if only because people will be asking for it. Gladwell, New Yorker staff writer, TEDTalks (Technology, Entertainment, Design) personality, and author of the best sellers The Tipping Point and Blink, has, well, reached a tipping point in the consciousness of observers of popular culture. Following a format similar to his previous books, Gladwell gloms onto an apparent phenomenon--in this case people who seem significantly different from other people, whether for good or for ill--and offers what we're all apparently supposed to believe are startlingly logical explanations for why they stand out. Gladwell's reasons have largely to do with things like where they come from and what month they were born in. It's all very readable, but not particularly surprising. No matter, libraries will need to acquire it. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/08.]--Ellen Gilbert, Princeton, NJ Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

In Outliers, Gladwell (The Tipping Point) once again proves masterful in a genre he essentially pioneered--the book that illuminates secret patterns behind everyday phenomena. His gift for spotting an intriguing mystery, luring the reader in, then gradually revealing his lessons in lucid prose, is on vivid display. Outliers begins with a provocative look at why certain five-year-old boys enjoy an advantage in ice hockey, and how these advantages accumulate over time. We learn what Bill Gates, the Beatles and Mozart had in common: along with talent and ambition, each enjoyed an unusual opportunity to intensively cultivate a skill that allowed them to rise above their peers. A detailed investigation of the unique culture and skills of Eastern European Jewish immigrants persuasively explains their rise in 20th-century New York, first in the garment trade and then in the legal profession. Through case studies ranging from Canadian junior hockey champions to the robber barons of the Gilded Age, from Asian math whizzes to software entrepreneurs to the rise of his own family in Jamaica, Gladwell tears down the myth of individual merit to explore how culture, circumstance, timing, birth and luck account for success--and how historical legacies can hold others back despite ample individual gifts. Even as we know how many of these stories end, Gladwell restores the suspense and serendipity to these narratives that make them fresh and surprising. One hazard of this genre is glibness. In seeking to understand why Asian children score higher on math tests, Gladwell explores the persistence and painstaking labor required to cultivate rice as it has been done in East Asia for thousands of years; though fascinating in its details, the study does not prove that a rice-growing heritage explains math prowess, as Gladwell asserts. Another pitfall is the urge to state the obvious: "No one," Gladwell concludes in a chapter comparing a high-IQ failure named Chris Langan with the brilliantly successful J. Robert Oppenheimer, "not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires and not even geniuses--ever makes it alone." But who in this day and age believes that a high intelligence quotient in itself promises success? In structuring his book against that assumption, Gladwell has set up a decidedly flimsy straw man. In the end it is the seemingly airtight nature of Gladwell's arguments that works against him. His conclusions are built almost exclusively on the findings of others--sociologists, psychologists, economists, historians--yet he rarely delves into the methodology behind those studies. And he is free to cherry-pick those cases that best illustrate his points; one is always left wondering about the data he evaluated and rejected because it did not support his argument, or perhaps contradicted it altogether. Real life is seldom as neat as it appears in a Malcolm Gladwell book. (Nov.) Leslie T. Chang is the author of Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (Spiegel & Grau). Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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2 review(s)
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I love the way Malcolm Gladwell uses pieces of stories of real life people to explain ideas that are thoughtful.
I am recommending this book to all my friends
irene stone on
 
Couldn't put it down. Reads easily and remarkably quickly. Fascinating and (I think) important insight into why some people succeed (and others don't). Note that this is NOT a how-to manual, rather a set of very interesting case studies that Gladwell uses to illustrate his thesis. Whether or not it's relevant to your life is up to you. Have already lent it to a couple of friends, one of whom has quibbles with some of the conclusions (I don't - much of the book seemed to confirm personal observation) but enjoyed it anyway. I intend to give lots of copies as Christmas presents.

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