Book Review: “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell


Back Bay Books, Little Brown & Company, copyright 2008

ISBN: 978-0-316-01792-3

309 pages

 What is an outlier? An outlier is a “scientific term to describe things or phenomena outside normal experience.” For example, if in the middle of July in Southern California, the temperature drops to below freezing, that “phenomena” is considered an outlier.


I had always assumed that the success of people had a lot to do with their ambition, intelligence, and personality. Not so, according to Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers. Gladwell challenges the idea that “success is exclusively a matter of merit.” Rather, he claims that success has a lot more to do with people who were given a special opportunity to work really hard and seized it. It is dependent on one’s family background and the community around them that prepared them properly for the world with help along the way.


Who knew that even the time and place of birth, among a few of other variables, could be the reason for your success? In this book, I learned the following:


  • What the Beatles, Bill Gates, and hockey players have in common.
  • Why star hockey players aren’t born in the fall.
  • Being born in a certain generation determined your wealth—the 1830’s, to be exact.
  • The 10,000-Hours Rule: your success could be dependent on whether or not you’ve reached that threshold.
  • Why Asians are so good at math—you’ll be surprised to know that the issue is highly influenced by a country’s view and practice of agriculture and construction of rice paddies.
  • The reason a pilot’s place of birth can determine whether the airline you’re on is more likely to crash or not. (Scary! Perhaps you should read this section before you book your next flight out).
  • Why “summer vacation” is hurting America’s education.
  • The smartest man in the world is definitely someone you’ve never heard of.


Are you intrigued, yet?


The writing is compelling with a message that is clear: we should be able to produce more successful and happy people by better understanding what makes people successful. Gladwell’s theories are well thought out and well researched. I dare you argue a point he won’t shut down a few pages later. The skeptic in me attempted to, and I was faced with explanations that I couldn’t seem to argue around.


I highly recommend this book.


Other works by Malcolm Gladwell:

The Tipping Point

David and Goliath


What The Dog Saw


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