Book Review – Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Title: Outliers
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Format: Paperback
Written: 2008
Published: 2009

Outliers is a nonfiction book that examines the people we consider to be outside the range of normal, and the qualities that separated them out. These outliers range from sporting stars and prodigies through to groups, businesses and entire cultures. This examination is done against a background of success and failure, and Gladwell uses surprising case studies to illustrate what he dubs the story of success.

The first section of the book examines individual and small group outliers, and details the journeys that took these people to their enviable positions of heightened ability and results. Key concepts are introduced at a gradual pace, allowing the reader to keep up and easily absorb the information. Some of the early examples are presented as mysteries that the reader has a chance to solve before Gladwell provides an obscure yet obvious solution.

With a strong thesis for success in the individual, the second and final part of the book examines broader cultural outliers and phenomena that can arise due to cultural differences. Moving from the micro to the macro shows the same mechanisms at work, and Gladwell introduces case studies that have used this awareness with impressive results.

The primary goal of the book is to demonstrate that success is not restricted to talented people receiving lucky breaks. While being in the right place at the right time has undoubtedly assisted many famous success stories, the point that Gladwell carefully develops and reiterates is that talent and luck are the result of factors that can be controlled. Being in the right place at the right time is important, but learning how to identify the timing and place is critical. Unless you have a way to capitalise on your opportunities, they will not be realised.

On the down side, this book approximately 300 pages long, so it will give you a really bad headache if you read it in a single sitting. I would strongly advise against reading it before doing a task that requires you to concentrate. It will be very unhelpful if you try to read this book as a way to relax your mind before going to sleep.

Criticisms aside, this book is brilliantly researched, engagingly written, and will challenge you to see the world in a new way. For these reasons, I am giving it 5 out of 5 pages.

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