I've enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell's books in the past (I thought "The Tipping Point" was excellent, but thought "Blink" was just Ok in comparison). I just finished reading "Outliers" and it is by far my favorite Gladwell book so far (on a side note, it's also the first book I read on the Kindle 2).
Fascinating case studies
The reason I enjoyed this book is that it presents intriguing findings woven into fascinating stories. Some of the topics include a discussion of lots of odd phenomena and stereotypes:
- Is there a "best" time to have been born?
- Are the most successful people those with the highest IQ's?
- Why are so many successful professional hockey players born early in the year?
- Are Asians really better at math? Why or why not?
- Do lower income students tend to do worse, academically, than those from higher income families?
- Why are there so many Jewish lawyers in New York?
- Does ethnicity play into likelihood of plane crashes?
- Why were the Beatles, Bill Gates, and Bill Joy so successful and influential?
The answers to all of these - and more - are covered in this book. Or at least Gladwell's convincing theories are covered!
Gladwell has perfected the art of drawing you into an intriguing story, then presenting a research-based analysis of why things occurred the way they did, the interactions & influences that were involved, and giving some serious "think about" material.
The best thing about the stories is that they feature real people, including Gladwell's own family. Comparing the opinions, thoughts, and actions with how things turned out can be fascinating - you can see the flaws in some of the thinking, but can also see how you may have made the same flawed decisions if you were immersed in the same situation.
Still not convinced?
I searched this book for a short example I could share in this review to get you jazzed about the book, but they were hard to condense into a paragraph or two. So, here is something to chew on that might get you thinking:
- Gladwell analyzed the 75 wealthiest people in history - starting with Cleopatra and the Pharaohs of ancient times (Bill Gates is #37 on that list, incidentally, when the wealth figures are normalized)
- Fourteen of these 75 are Americans born within 9 years of each other in the mid-nineteenth century - that's almost 20% of the wealthiest people in thousands of years - all born in a historical blink of an eye
Curious how that happened? You'll find out in this book. And it relates to the answers to most of the questions I listed above.
If you haven't done so yet, I recommend you read Outliers - and I'd love to hear whether you enjoyed it as much as I did.