Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company (2008)
Genres: Nonfiction, Science
Sub-Genres: Social Sciences, Popular Science
Summary: Gladwell explores the nature of success, by looking at Canadian children's hockey leagues, Korean pilots, and Bill Gates. The essential thesis is that people love the story of the underdog and most believe that people get success by sheer force of will. Gladwell asserts that this is not the case: that in reality, success (and expert skill) is created by 10,000 hours of work, your ethnic, family, and religious background, and being in the right place and the right time.
What I Liked: After being told all my life that all I needed was a good education and that I would be successful (given my natural intelligence and my talent for both music and writing), I was surprised to learn when I completed my master's degree that no one wanted to hire me. I purposely read this book to seek out some answers for myself, and what I found (though painful at times, wonderful at others) is remarkable.
The way Gladwell thinks is amazing, for he manages to throw out our preconceived notions that so often blind us to what is right in front of our face. He might crush the notion of the American Dream (by stating that hardwork and intelligence doesn't always work out to riches), but he also manages to be inspiring, by exploring how life can be completely unexpected, if you put yourself out there, and work really, really hard.
And he does this without ever once coming off like an elitist. This is surprising, considering, at the end of the book, Gladwellputs himself in the shoes of these so-called Outliers (the successes that seem to come from nowhere that change society). As he should, since his career is quite amazing.
Overall, the book is easy to read and while supported by thorough research, manages to come off as enjoyable. This is why so many popular science books fail - they become too much like textbooks and not enough like something people actually want to read. Or they go too far in the other direction, and become all fluff. Outliers doesn't have either problem.
What I Didn't Like: Gladwell partitions the book into several larger groups of chapters. I don't mind this, but it does seem to force Gladwell to repeat himself at times. When he circles back to previous ideas, he sometimes spends so much time illuminating the same story that it doesn't always seem like he's saying something new - or that the connections between the stories don't always seem natural. This is also true of when some of his stories seem to overlap - they don't all feel perfectly original and separate.
Other Books about Success: Success Is Not an Accident: Change Your Choices; Change Your Life and The Real Truth about Success: What the Top 1% Do Differently, Why They Won't Tell You, and How You Can Do It Anyway!
Buy It Here: Outliers: The Story of Success
Last Thought: A successful book about success. (Yes, I know that was trite. Still true, though.)