Book Review: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Book Review: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

I absolutely loved the book Outliers.  It explored what REALLY makes the most successful Americans successful.  In the process he uncovers some startling truths (or at least theories) about human nature.  Among the things that I found most interesting:

  • Asians may be better at math because of the produce that their great grandfathers grew.
  • Southerners exhibit the signs of being from a culture of honor.  Even if they are Suburban Southerners from Atlanta attending college in Michigan.
  • Being good at math has more to do with your willingness to solve problems then your skill with numbers.
  • There are a number of people who have been smarter then Einstein, but it takes a mix of different types of intelligence to be brilliant.
  • Once you are above a certain intelligence level (IQ 150 or so) additional intelligence is no longer a predictor of success.
  • The real difference between the rich kids and the poor kids is not what they learn IN school, but what they learn out of it.

I don’t think this book changes the world or solves world hunger but it does challenge the way you think about human nature.  I highly recommend it to anyone who is introspective about these kinds of topics.

A note on Gladwell more generally:
I was convinced to read Outliers by a friend of mine.  I was very reluctant because I thought both Tipping Point and Blink provided a very narrow view of complex problems.  When I mean by this is that Gladwell has a tendency to point out one possible solution to a problem and not allow for other possibilities.  This is clear when he discusses crime in NYC in Tipping Point.  He cites a couple of things that he thinks caused it, gives reasons why and then doesn’t discuss any alternative possibilities.  Being a bit academic, I like to name the other possibilities and reasons I do or do not think they are possible.  Unfortunately, Gladwell continues this trend in Outliers.  This time though, the scope of the analysis demands an arbitrary narrowing.  It would be too difficult to discuss all of the other theories about why Asians are better at math, Hockey players are born in the first half of the year and Bill Joy, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are all within a year or two of age.

  • Glad you found the time to read this one! My disclaimer – yes, I'm a fan! I think it's quite impossible to insert and argue all sides in a single book. That'd be chaotic and nebulous. Though, I'll give you that Gladwell could benefit from including a few more alternatives.

    Less is more!! And strong convictions rule! 🙂

    • It (the not exploring alternatives) was less annoying in this book then in the previous two. I think that's because in this book the concepts are broad enough that presenting everything would be a little ridiculous.