Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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. Leslie T. Chang is the author of Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (Spiegel & Grau). Take a trip to New Delhi or New Jersey or even back in time with these lavish photography books." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Outliers is riveting science, self-help, and entertainment, all in one book. (Grade: A)" Entertainment Weekly
"Thought-provoking, entertaining, and irresistibly debatable, Outliers offers lively stories about an unexpected range of exceptional people....Overall, it's another winner from this agile social observer." The Christian Science Monitor
"[T]he author's lively storytelling and infectious enthusiasm make it an engaging, perhaps even inspiring, read. Sure to be a crowd-pleaser." Kirkus Reviews
"Following a format similar to his previous books, Gladwell gloms onto an apparent phenomenon...and offers what we're all apparently supposed to believe are startlingly logical explanations for why they stand out....It's all very readable, but not particularly surprising." Library Journal
"Ultimately, Outliers is a book about the 20th century. It offers a fascinating look at how certain people became successful, but it doesn't solve the problem of how to help others equal their achievement." The Boston Globe
"The book, which purports to explain the real reason some people — like Bill Gates and the Beatles — are successful, is peppy, brightly written and provocative in a buzzy sort of way. It is also glib, poorly reasoned and thoroughly unconvincing." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
Gladwell embarks on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers" the best and the brightest and the most successful. He investigates what makes high-achievers different by looking at their culture, family, generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing.
A rigorous and inspiring survey of the workings of creative pairings that shows us how great duos work together and how we can adapt their techniques in our own work and lives.
About the Author
Malcolm Gladwell is a staff writer for The New Yorker. He was formerly a business and science reporter at the Washington Post. His earlier books were the national bestsellers The Tipping Point and Blink.
Review A Day
"Part psychologist, part sociologist and investigative reporter, Gladwell tells intriguing tales about people who overcome adversity: children of Jewish immigrants; talented musicians from the back streets of Liverpool, England; and flight attendants from Korea. With relentless curiosity and a keen fascination with significant details, he focuses on trends and illuminates the larger lessons he wants everyone to learn. Jargon never rears its head, which in part explains his enduring popularity." Jonah Raskin, San Francisco Chronicle
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argues that American society has a limited and misleading understanding of how and why people succeed. Gladwell never precisely defines what he means by "success," but most of his examples center on people who have risen to great heights in their professional careers. His book adopts the classical reassurances of the self-help line about the irrelevance of personal endowments and talents indeed, it goes so far in its rejection of the power of individual intellect that it becomes itself an exercise in anti-intellectualism." Isaac Chotiner, The New Republic
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