26 January 2010

Book Review: "Outliers: The Story of Success"


Outliers: The Story of Success is an excellent book giving insight as to why certain people succeed under certain social and other conditions, explaining the significance of cultural legacies and hard work to success, and illustrating how knowing this can assist educators in helping more people succeed.

It's probably best to read this book carefully to understand what it is Gladwell is asserting.  This is because it's all too easy, as some seem to have done, to understand Gladwell's arguments as asserting that people succeed only due to environmental factors.  At one point, he even seems to explain how hard working a person is as being a product of the person's cultural heritage!


My own contention is that Gladwell exposes both the changeable attributes of a person and the person's environmental factors as both contributing to success or failure.  He goes into stories that exposes some of the connections between the various factors and success.  Some of these factors cannot be changed (eg, the month a person's born in), but, more importantly, some factors can be changed.  Gladwell exposes which ones can be changed too, but he doesn't do so explicitly (he's showing us stories, not telling us what to do!).

Malcolm Gladwell's way of explaining through vividly told stories captures the reader's imagination in a way that no other author does for me.  He goes into a lot of detail but threads it into a distinct story line so that it stays with you long after you've finished reading it.

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