Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: Book Review, Summary & Analysis

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Outliers: The Story of Success is a non-fiction book written by Malcolm Gladwell and published by Little, Brown, and Company on November 18, 2008. In Outliers, Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success. Wikipedia

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THE STORY OF SUCCESS

by Malcolm Gladwell ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 18, 2008

Sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

There is a logic behind why some people become successful, and it has more to do with legacy and opportunity than high IQ.

In his latest book, New Yorker contributor Gladwell ( Blink , 2005, etc.) casts his inquisitive eye on those who have risen meteorically to the top of their fields, analyzing developmental patterns and searching for a common thread. The author asserts that there is no such thing as a self-made man, that “the true origins of high achievement” lie instead in the circumstances and influences of one’s upbringing, combined with excellent timing. The Beatles had Hamburg in 1960-62; Bill Gates had access to an ASR-33 Teletype in 1968. Both put in thousands of hours—Gladwell posits that 10,000 is the magic number—on their craft at a young age, resulting in an above-average head start. The author makes sure to note that to begin with, these individuals possessed once-in-a-generation talent in their fields. He simply makes the point that both encountered the kind of “right place at the right time” opportunity that allowed them to capitalize on their talent, a delineation that often separates moderate from extraordinary success. This is also why Asians excel at mathematics—their culture demands it. If other countries schooled their children as rigorously, the author argues, scores would even out. Gladwell also looks at “demographic luck,” the effect of one’s birth date. He demonstrates how being born in the decades of the 1830s or 1930s proved an enormous advantage for any future entrepreneur, as both saw economic booms and demographic troughs, meaning that class sizes were small, teachers were overqualified, universities were looking to enroll and companies were looking for employees. In short, possibility comes “from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with.” This theme appears throughout the varied anecdotes, but is it groundbreaking information? At times it seems an exercise in repackaged carpe diem , especially from a mind as attuned as Gladwell’s. Nonetheless, the author’s lively storytelling and infectious enthusiasm make it an engaging, perhaps even inspiring, read.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-316-01792-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

PSYCHOLOGY | BUSINESS | GENERAL BUSINESS

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Christopher Meeks: The Best-selling Author on 'How I Did It'

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

by Robert Greene ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 1998

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

GENERAL BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR | BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR | PHILOSOPHY & RELIGION | PSYCHOLOGY | HISTORICAL & MILITARY

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THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

by Robert Greene

MASTERY

BOOK TO SCREEN

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

by Daniel Kahneman ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 1, 2011

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

BUSINESS | LEADERSHIP, MANAGEMENT & COMMUNICATION | PSYCHOLOGY

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NOISE

by Daniel Kahneman & Olivier Sibony & Cass R. Sunstein

Author Daniel Kahneman Dies at 90

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Submitting a book for review, write the editor, you are here:, outliers: the story of success.

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If Malcolm Gladwell did not exist, we probably would have to invent him. In his third book, Gladwell continues to demonstrate his facility for taking often obscure sociological and psychological data and theories and spinning them into an engaging popular work. What distinguishes OUTLIERS from its bestselling predecessors, THE TIPPING POINT and BLINK, is that at its heart lies a passionate argument for radically redefining our understanding of what makes people successful in a way that suggests how to create opportunities for many who might not otherwise taste its rewards.

“Outliers,” by Gladwell's concise definition, are “men and women who do things that are out of the ordinary.” But he’s quick to reject the myth of the self-made man (for some odd reason the examples of outliers in his book are almost exclusively male). Contrary to our cherished notion that “success is a simple function of individual merit and that the world in which we all grow up and the rules we choose to write as a society don’t matter at all,” Gladwell argues that these extraordinary people “reached their lofty status through a combination of ability, opportunity and utterly arbitrary advantage.”

What makes Gladwell’s work so entertaining and his central message so easy to grasp is his ability to muster arresting examples --- some well-known and others arcane --- to illustrate this thesis. People familiar with the story of the Beatles’ early career will recall the tales of the years they spent toiling in obscurity in seedy German clubs, but according to Gladwell those endless gigs afforded them the crucial opportunity to accumulate the 10,000 hours of practice necessary to attain world class expertise. He tells a similar story of Bill Gates, fortunate enough, in eighth grade, to have access to a time sharing computer that allowed him to hone his programming skills.

Then there are the accidents of birth, highlighted in the story of Joe Flom, the New York attorney who almost singlehandedly created the field of corporate takeover law. Flom wasn’t simply fortunate to be the son of immigrant Jewish parents who demonstrated an intense work ethic in the garment industry; he and several of the other titans of that field happened to have been born in the early 1930s, a “demographic trough” that ensured they would have attention lavished on them by the educational system and would face relatively less competition when they entered the job market.

The benefits of such accidents are demonstrated in other fields of endeavor. Reflecting his Canadian heritage, Gladwell explains why some 40 percent of standout hockey players are born between January and March. The fact is that the cutoff date for entry into hockey leagues is January 1st, and thus the older the player the more likely he is to manifest physical superiority that will ensure selection for all-star teams, thereby securing better coaching and all the advantages that help advance an athletic career.

The second half of OUTLIERS is devoted to a discussion of cultural phenomena that contribute to success or increase the likelihood of failure. In an intriguing discussion of what he calls the “ethnic theory of plane crashes,” Gladwell describes how something known as the “Power Distance Index” --- how much a particular culture values and respects authority --- helped account for the abysmal safety record of Korean Air in the 1980s and ’90s, as the undue deference shown by junior members of flight crews to their superiors produced disastrous results.

Gladwell doesn’t leave us without at least one practical prescription for overcoming such cultural handicaps to create a new and more inclusive model of success. He describes New York City’s remarkable KIPP (“Knowledge Is Power Program”) Academy, the prototype for some 50 such schools across the country. There, children from blighted neighborhoods are exposed to extended school hours, intensive academic and enrichment programs, and, perhaps most dramatically in our educational system, shortened summer vacations. The results are striking: 90 percent of the participants earn scholarships to private or parochial high schools and 80 percent attend college.

“To build a better world,” Gladwell concludes, “we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success --- the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history --- with a society that provides opportunities for all.” More than a collection of factoids fit only for cocktail party consumption, OUTLIERS is a provocative, consistently engaging, occasionally amusing work that has the potential to change the way we view the world, perhaps even help change the world itself.

Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg on January 24, 2011

book review on outliers

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

  • Publication Date: November 18, 2008
  • Genres: Business , Nonfiction , Psychology
  • Hardcover: 309 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • ISBN-10: 0316017922
  • ISBN-13: 9780316017923

book review on outliers

Book Review – Outliers

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I am an unabashed fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s books. I enjoy his style of writing and admire his ability to not only dig up fascinating stories and statistics, but to weave them together into a cohesive whole. Blink and The Tipping Point were both excellent books that, even if not particularly deep, offered popular-level introductions into topics all of us experience but few of us think about. It is little wonder, really, that Gladwell’s books are perennial bestsellers. At the moment I write this review, all three of his titles are firmly fixed on the New York Times list of Bestsellers.

Gladwell’s third book, released just a couple of weeks ago, is Outliers: The Story of Success . Here he attempts to shed fresh light on success, asking why some people succeed while others never reach their potential. He takes the view that–our love of the “self made man” notwithstanding–success is rarely only a product of ability and motivation. Instead, he says, success comes to those who are “invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.” In other words, we are all products of hidden forces, advantages and disadvantages, culture, upbringing and even plain dumb luck. He points to “practical intelligence,” (known also as “emotional intelligence”) as a force that often separates two people who otherwise may appear equal in every way. And, of course, there is the value of hard work–just as your mother told you, practice really does make perfect. Pardon my laziness as I quote from a story at the New York Times . “Many people, I think, have an instinctual understanding of this idea (even if Gladwell, in the interest of setting his thesis against conventional wisdom, doesn’t say so). That’s why parents spend so much time worrying about what school their child attends. They don’t really believe the child is so infused with greatness that he or she can overcome a bad school, or even an average one. And yet when they look back years later on their child’s success — or their own — they tend toward explanations that focus on the individual. Devastatingly, if cheerfully, Gladwell exposes the flaws in these success stories we tell ourselves.”

In all of Gladwell’s books, I’ve been drawn to the stories and trivia he relies on to illustrate his points. I enjoyed these elements in Outliers as much as in his previous two titles. However, where I felt that in the other books the illustrations served to further his point, here I often felt that they actually were his point. If you are like me, you will enjoy reading about the great advantage hockey players have if they are born on the first few months of the year and will enjoy finding out why Korean pilots are historically the worst in the world (especially if, as I do, you have Korean friends to share this information with). But you may also find yourself a little bit disappointed that Gladwell never really comes to any great and grand conclusions. Neither does he offer any substantial answers to many of the questions raised by the book. Then again, maybe that is precisely the point. Maybe this is not a self-help book, trying to release us from the simple fact that success is more than motivation and ability. Perhaps it simply teaches us what is inevitable, what is just one of life’s realities–that we are more than our desires and more than our innate talents and abilities. There is always more to a success story than what comes immediately to the eye, but these factors are not easily reproduced, even if we can understand them.

Outliers struck me as being a bit more derived from other books than his previous titles. I am not convinced that there is a whole lot here that hasn’t already been said by others (though I’ll grant that these others did not write books that sold in the millions of copies). I guess this just proves Gladwell’s point, though. It is not always the most original or most talented or most motivated who see success. This is illustrated well in the review of Outliers printed in the New York Times . Gladwell, like anyone who has tasted success, is the product of all kinds of forces and factors that have combined to make him what he is. “It is not the brightest who succeed…nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities — and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”

I greatly enjoyed Outliers and have no trouble recommending it alongside Gladwell’s other titles. It is good for us, I think, to examine success and to understand that things are not always as they seem on the surface. By digging a little deeper than the myth of the self-made man, we are better equipped to understand the forces that, combined together, lead some people to great success while leaving others in obscurity.

Outliers is a good, light read. I can’t imagine that it will change too many lives, but neither does it need to. It is a fun and harmless diversion that offers enough “A-ha!” moments to be worth reading, but not so many that it is difficult to plow through. I think it makes for perfect holiday reading.

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Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Title: Outliers: The Story of Success

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Genre:  Business, Entrepreneurship

First Publication: 2008

Language:  English

Book Summary: Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

In this stunning book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?

His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing.

Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Book Review - Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

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

Outliers: The Story of Success starts off with the famous ‘10,000 hours rule’, which says that no-one ever got really expert at anything without putting in the time and effort, and studies have put the bar at circa 10,000 hours. Innate ability and talent only explain so much, what really counts is the hours and the dedication. Never has any book managed to make me want to practice my hobbies more.

And it only gets better. A lot of chapters start with a big ‘success story’, like the Beatles or Bill Gates. It first tells us the shallow story we all know, and then it throws that version of the story straight to the bin, and shares some insights about what really happened.

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell shows that the stories about self made rugged individualists who are so widely admired are not stories of singularly talented people who took advantage of opportunities. But rather they are stories of talented people who took advantage of singular opportunities. Furthermore, the ability and disposition to work hard is not so much a personal trait as it is a cultural legacy.

The author tells numerous true stories of what appears to be shining examples of disadvantaged people who ended up being outstanding success stories. But then the author goes back through the same story and takes a look at where that person came from and shows that they benefited from a combination of a cultural background and set of unique opportunities and timing that allowed them to succeed.

“It’s not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether or not our work fulfills us.”

The point of Outliers: The Story of Success is not to explain away success stories. But rather it is to learn from these stories, and use this information to help everyone be more productive and successful. The author shows several instances where proactive steps were able to ameliorate the effect of negative cultural legacies.

Above all, in typical Gladwell style this book is really smoothly written business book and a joy to read. You’ll learn new things, you’ll get some more encouragement to keep practicing at whatever it is you want to achieve professionally or hobby-wise. And it might give you some conversation topics too. Come to think of it – why are the majority of professional hockey players born between January and March?

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Outliers: The Story of Success

By Malcolm Gladwell

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“Outliers are those who have been given opportunities – and who have had strength and presence of mind to seize them.”......................

Review on Outliers: The story of Success

Malcolm Timothy Gladwell (born 3 September 1963) is an English-born Canadian columnist, creator, and public speaker. He has been a staff author for The New Yorker since 1996. He has published seven books. Gladwell's compositions regularly manage the surprising ramifications of examination in the sociologies, similar to human science and brain research, and make incessant and expanded utilization of scholarly work. Outliers: The Story of Success is the third verifiable book composed by Malcolm Gladwell and published by Little Brown, and Company on November 18, 2008. Outliers have been depicted as a type of self-portrayal, as Gladwell blends components from his own life into the book to give it a closer to home touch. In Outliers, Gladwell inspects the variables that add to undeniable degrees of achievement.

Novel comprise of 9 chapters and an epilogue. This load of chapters is lowered into two sections. The principal half of the book intently takes a gander at how opportunities matter more in the existences of fruitful individuals than difficult work or crude ability. The second half of the book centers around social heritages: conduct inclinations established in their genealogical past.

Section One looks at the job of chance in the existences of incredibly fruitful individuals. Gladwell contends that 10,000 hours of training is expected to dominate an ability, in any event, for wonders like Mozart. Bill Joy, Bill Gates, and the Beatles all endeavored to make progress yet profited from promising circumstances they didn't make. He contends that "functional knowledge" is just about as significant as "insightful knowledge" for progress. Doors, Joy, and other early software engineers were totally conceived similarly as PCs opened up to people in general.

Section Two researches social heritages. Gladwell contends that social assumptions and propensities can be a serious obstruction to pilots. He shows that difficult work greaterly affects accomplishment in learning math than knowledge. The KIPP school in the South Bronx utilizes longer school days and summer programming to wipe out the accomplishment hole for low-pay kids.

Malcolm Gladwell has a virtuoso for narrating. In his book Outliers, he engagingly recounts accounts of effective individuals from a wide range of fields. He calls attention to significant discoveries, upholds them with exploration, and presents fascinating hypotheses to assist us with seeing how these individuals made their progress. The subtitle of the book is "The story of success" which, from the get go, might summon that it will part with the outline to follow to make a stupendous progress. In any case, life doesn't work like that. There is no diagram for progress. There are no alternate routes, no simple ways, and no cheats. The book Outliers has a place with inspirational writing and it doubtlessly propels, astonishes, and engages. In the book, Malcolm Gladwell splendidly recounts the narratives of fruitful individuals. However, not simply shallow stories which present the accomplishments and achievements the fruitful individuals came to while heading to the top. Malcolm Gladwell gives further stories, loaded with subtleties and clarifications. He recounts more mind-boggling accounts of the lives and professions of the anomalies. Every one of the accounts are drawing in, composed in this way, that you can see them unfurl as motion pictures in your mind. They encourage your interest and you’re craving to look into that individual, the exception, and his life. What's more, the normal topics the creator finds in examples of overcoming adversity of these exceptions, make you contemplate your own life. Did you have comparable sorts of benefits and openings in your day-to-day existence as the depicted anomalies? Did you use them or did you neglect them? The book will make you ponder your current circumstance, your folks and companions, openings and benefits you have, your way of life and customs, and how they formed you personally and as an expert. What's more, how you can this load of impacts with an end goal to create, progress, learn and succeed. While I was perusing the book, I was unable to quit discussing it. I was flabbergasted by the book and stories it tells, captivated by them, and anxious to peruse more. This is the book I would energetically prescribe to my friends in general and all things considered, some of them will get it as a gift sooner or later. It is simply amazing!

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book review on outliers

Maria Rasheed... Student of BS ENGLISH...... From QAU, Islamabad Pakistan

book review on outliers

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Book Review for Teens: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell book cover

This inspiring look at successful people throughout history will give adults and teenagers a new look on hard work and how to view their own goals and successes. A good read for anyone who wants to get motivated to get out there and repeat that success.

Inconceivable Tales From The Making of The Princess Bride

ADULT REVIEW | by Maggie Baird

My favorite books are the ones that change the way you see the world. And Outliers  by Malcolm Gladwell is just such a book. It changed a lot of my perceptions regarding our individual paths to success and creative fulfillment, and those of our children.

In Outliers , Gladwell challenges the traditional idea that success in one’s chosen career is solely based on hard work and “the cream rising to the top” phenomenon. Instead, he cites statistics and historical references to analyze the elements that contributed to the achievements of some of our most successful artists, thinkers, scientists, and business people.

Gladwell takes us through an explanation of how the opportunities that presented themselves to these individuals and groups had as much to do with coincidence of time and place, birthdates, and connections as they do with talent.

But it isn’t just external elements that create outliers. Gladwell also focuses on individual contribution to success. This includes the somewhat shocking number of hours (approximately 10,000) that it takes to become masterful in a given area.

As a parent, some of this information gave me pause. For example, I grew up an avid skier in Colorado. Based on my children’s physicality and coordination, I think they would be excellent skiers, too. Maybe even world class racers. However, having parents who are actors and live in California provides neither the locale nor the means to ski at all. Cross that future off their list.

On the other hand, we are artists and live in a major city. So they have been afforded some pretty incredible opportunities—some of which seem to be playing right into their interests and talents. So as I lie awake at night, I try to take comfort in that.

The best part of reading Outliers  was watching the way it affected my son Finneas, who was reading it at the same time . Instead of focusing on any areas in which he might have less advantage, he was hugely inspired by the individuals and groups (The Beatles, Bill Gates, etc.) Gladwell writes about in the book and the incredible amount of focused practice and hard work that they put into action.

I highly recommend reading this book and encouraging your teens to read it, too. It will give you lots to talk about.

Maggie Baird is an actress. She has appeared on many TV shows, including The X-Files, Six Feet Under, and Chicago Hope , and is a well-known voice-over artist (she’s Samara in Mass Effect ). Baird is also a singer/songwriter and she co-wrote and starred in the award-winning independent movie Life Inside Out.

Finneas-OConnell

TEEN REVIEW | by Finneas O’Connell

I read Outliers when I turned 16, and it changed the way I approach each day.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is a study of the cause and effect of greatness. The book documents many unique cases of mastery. It hypothesizes that in order to truly be a master in any field, one must have devoted around 10 years and at least 10,000 hours to that field. Subjects in this book include my favorite band, The Beatles; Microsoft founder Bill Gates; the “smartest man in the world” Chris Langan; physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer; and countless others. I found each story in the book to be totally fascinating, compelling, and inspiring. And of course, the stories are all true.

The book talks about the two primary keys to success: the hard work put in and the opportunity to work hard.

For example, if you want to be a competitive gymnast, you have to practice and train all the time. But you also need to live close to a gymnasium. And you should have a support system of parents and coaches who are willing and available to help you. We may not have control over the latter aspect, but we can fulfill our part by seizing every opportunity and being prepared.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for motivation to work hard at the thing they love to do, or to anyone interested in finding out more about the history of some of the great creators of our time. The stories of the Beatles and Bill Gates, fascinating tales of successful hockey players, and the flawed hierarchy and cockpit culture of Korean Air pilots make this a great read.

The night I finished this book, I wrote “10,000 hours” in Sharpie above my door.

Every morning it’s the first thing I see, and it inspires me to get up and work hard.

Finneas O’Connell is an actor and musician. He has appeared on Glee and Modern Family and starred as Shane in Life Inside Out. O’Connell is also lead singer/songwriter for The Slightlys.

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Book Review—He’s Not Lazy: Empowering Boys to Believe in Themselves 

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What is Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers about? What is the key message to take away from the book?

Outliers is a collection of stories , each exploring a variety of external factors that contribute to success. Malcolm Gladwell argues that extraordinarily successful people—or outliers—reached that point not just because of hard work and determination, but also thanks to luck, timing, and opportunities. He challenges the notion of self-made success through anecdotes and insight from various disciplines, including history, sociology, and psychology.

Here’s our book review of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

About the Author

Malcolm Gladwell is a New Yorker staff writer and author of several bestselling books that have earned him worldwide fame and millions of fans for his captivating style of writing and unusual subjects. Gladwell blends storytelling with social science research to offer new perspectives on topics such as how trends catch on and when to trust your intuition . His books—which include five New York Times bestsellers and have sold millions of copies in dozens of countries—have popularized concepts such as the “ broken windows theory ,” the Pareto principle , the “ stickiness factor ,” or the “ talent myth .”

His parents—a British math professor and a Jamaican psychotherapist—nurtured Gladwell’s natural curiosity from a young age. (In fact, he was such an avid reader that he says his mother let him skip school when he wanted to because she knew he would spend his off-day reading at home.) Gladwell enrolled in college at just 16, earning a bachelor’s in history from the University of Toronto. After struggling to land a job in advertising, as he’d hoped, he began his writing career. 

  • He started out at The American Spectator before joining The Washington Post in 1987, where Bob Woodward was a colleague. Gladwell says he learned a great deal from watching Woodward, the investigative journalist who helped break the Watergate Scandal and remains at the Post as an associate editor. 
  • In 1996, he became a staff writer at The New Yorker . There, he published the article that spawned his first book, The Tipping Point (2000).

Gladwell has published seven books and co-founded the podcast and audiobook production company Pushkin Industries , where he hosts the podcast Revisionist History . Additionally, an Outliers series is reportedly in development for HBO Max. 

Despite Gladwell’s broad acclaim, he’s also been widely criticized for misusing academic research. Specifically, critics claim that he cherry-picks evidence to support his theses, often using small, obscure, and unreliable studies and failing to present contradictory research. Some critics have even dubbed him “ America’s Best-Paid Fairy-Tale Writer .” 

In response, Gladwell has said that he is primarily a journalist and a storyteller who wants readers to consider new perspectives on cultural phenomena. When describing his approach, Gladwell says that he enjoys playing with ideas and that his books give him a forum to “ think in public .” While some argue that Gladwell’s wide popularity and powerful platform turn his published ponderings into the public narrative, he has been reluctant to shoulder that burden—instead, he puts the onus on readers to recognize that he’s offering an alternative or expanded view, rather than delivering a definitive explanation. 

Connect with Malcolm Gladwell:

  • Little, Brown page
  • The New Yorker

The Book’s Publication

Outliers was published in 2008 by Little, Brown and Company , a division of the Hachette Book Group . It is available in hardcover and paperback, and as an ebook and audiobook.

Outliers was Gladwell’s third non-fiction book, after The Tipping Point and Blink . Like his books before and since, Outliers was a New York Times bestseller. On one hand, this book features Gladwell’s signature writing style—narrative-nonfiction punctuated with social psychology—and fits the pop-economics genre he created with his previous books. However, it is also somewhat of an outlier: In the “Reading Group Guide” at the end of the book, Gladwell writes that this book puts more emphasis on people and their stories, rather than concepts and principles.

Historical Context

Although Gladwell’s focus on success in Outliers was personally relevant, given the extraordinary success he’d achieved after publishing his first two books, the book was also culturally relevant after the relative prosperity of the previous decades. 

As the United States enjoyed a healthy economy through the 1980s and ‘90s, pop-cultural images were glitzy and idealized. Americans worked longer hours, made bigger paychecks, and bought bigger cars and homes (cue the birth of the McMansion). At the same time, technology—from the personal computer to the cell phone—became a larger cultural and economic presence, while tech stars like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs became household names. It may be no wonder, then, that Gladwell uses Bill Gates as an example of an outlier in the book.

Although the early 2000s began with the dot-com boom and 9/11, they also spawned reality TV ( Survivor premiered in 2000), social media (Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook launched in 2002, 2003, and 2004, respectively), and blogs. Collectively, these platforms created a new brand of supposedly self-made fame and success, arguably based more on exposure than talent. However, just a month before Outliers was published, the stock market crashed and an era of prosperity transitioned to an economic recession.

Intellectual Context

When Outliers was published in 2008, it made a strong case for the “nurture” side of the nature vs. nurture debate—that a person’s success relies at least as much on environmental factors as on genetics—at a time when there was broad support for the “nature” argument. 

The Reign of the Nature Argument

In 1994, a book titled The Bell Curve argued that intelligence is largely determined by genes and that the intellectually elite naturally rise to power in the United States. The book drew fervent criticism for suggesting that Black Americans are intellectually inferior to whites and calling for an end to affirmative action. This view echoed statements by Nobel Prize-winning scientist James Watson, who co-discovered DNA (Watson maintained this view as recently as 2019), and by prominent psychologist Arthur Jensen, who concluded that racial differences in American children’s test scores were attributable to genetics rather than circumstances. 

The Rise of the Nurture Argument

In 2003, psychologist Eric Turkheimer revealed an important caveat to the nature argument: He concluded that DNA determines a person’s potential , but that their environment determines whether they reach that potential . Gladwell continued to pick apart the idea that a person’s intelligence is tied to their race in a New Yorker article published less than a year before Outliers .

This book appears to elaborate on the New Yorker piece, while also giving some context to Gladwell’s own success , which had ballooned by this point to a level far beyond what most writers enjoy. In the book, he writes about the unique circumstances that benefited him—for instance, if his mother had been born a few years earlier, she wouldn’t have gotten a high school education.  

The Book’s Impact

Following the success of The Tipping Point and Blink , Outliers debuted in the number-one spot on The New York Times bestseller lists. It held the top position for 11 weeks, and the paperback version remained on the list for 274 weeks. 

Some critics say that the optimism in Gladwell’s books is a major reason for his broad success. Where conventional ideas can be disheartening, Gladwell’s counterintuitive arguments on everyday phenomena tend to be hopeful. As he writes in the Reading Guide at the end of Outliers , each of his books (up to that point) offered alternative views of the world:

  • The Tipping Point made the case that meaningful change is possible.
  • Blink urged readers to recognize how powerful—and trustworthy—snap judgments can be. 
  • Outliers emphasizes that society and community play critical roles in individual success.

The success of Gladwell’s books helped to popularize a subgenre of nonfiction books similarly based on unconventional arguments. Those books include: 

  • Freakonomics , in which Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner use economic principles to explain human behavior. 
  • The Wisdom of Crowds , in which James Surowiecki asserts that groups are collectively wiser than individuals.
  • Everything Bad Is Good for You , in which Steven Johnson argues that pop culture is making us smarter, not dumber.

Critical Reception

Gladwell has such a distinct style that much of the praise and criticism for Outliers is consistent with reviews for nearly all of his work.

  • Fans praise his simple, engaging writing and his easy-to-understand explanations of social science research. 
  • Critics accuse him of cherry-picking evidence to support his arguments and oversimplifying the research , both of which help Gladwell present an oversimplified reality. In an effort to offer unexpected explanations for common questions, critics say that Gladwell writes things that may be true, but don’t represent the full picture. 

Paradoxically, Gladwell has said that his approach aims to help people understand the whole story by revealing things they didn’t know. He says that the new information is not meant to show people that what they thought was true is actually wrong—rather, it’s incomplete . 

Interestingly, some Outliers book reviews highlighted that the notion that someone’s environment and circumstances play a substantial role in their success is obvious, even though Gladwell presents it as a contradiction to the self-made man myth. 

Commentary on the Book’s Approach

Gladwell opens Outliers by defining an outlier and using an example to demonstrate that external circumstances are often equally or more influential in creating outliers than innate traits. He explains that this is his thesis for the book. 

Gladwell focuses on two types of external factors: opportunities and cultural legacy. In Part 1, he examines various types of opportunities that enable people to reach outlier-level success; these include the timing of their birth and their family’s style of parenting. In Part 2, he presents three types of cultural legacies and how those legacies foster social norms that impact an individuals’ behavior and trajectories. In the epilogue, Gladwell examines the opportunities and circumstances that contributed to his own success. 

In his signature style, Gladwell centers each chapter’s principle around a case study. From the rags-to-riches story of a Jewish lawyer in Chapter 5 to the harrowing tale of a plane crash in Chapter 7, Gladwell uses colorful storytelling and rich details to bring these anecdotes—and the principles they support—to life.

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers Reviewed

Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers Reviewed

book review on outliers

BOOK REVIEW: Outliers: The Story of Success , Malcolm Gladwell. Little, Brown and Company. 320 pp., $27.99

Begin with the title. An “outlier,” in statistics, is an observation so far outside the general range of one’s data as to indicate a possible source of distortion. Thus, if I may draw on Steve Sailer’s critique of Outliers , when you send out your research department to discover the average net worth of college dropouts, and they come back with a figure in the hundreds of millions, you do not roll out a program for selling yachts to that demographic group. You ask if they happened to interview someone named Bill Gates. In that data set, Gates is an outlier, and his economic condition doesn’t tell you much about the typical wealth of people lacking bachelor’s degrees.

But suppose you want to explain what brought about Gates’s outlier status—what accounts for his tremendous success, despite his being a dropout. Well, again, you have a problem. The trouble with outliers is that, by definition, there aren’t a lot of them, and thus explanations of their exceptional success tend to reflect cultural presuppositions rather than solid analysis. If you lived in the Renaissance, you would probably attribute success like Gates’s to divine favor; if you lived in the Romantic Era, to genius; if you lived in the Victorian Era, to “pluck and luck.” But if you lived in the twenty-first century, and happened to write for The New Yorker , you would probably attribute his success to some politically correct cause. Such as? Leslie Chang’s review of Outliers in Publisher’s Weekly says it all: “Gladwell tears down the myth of individual merit to explore how culture, circumstance, timing, birth and luck account for success—and how historical legacies can hold others back despite ample individual gifts.”

O LITTLE TOWN OF ROSETO

Gladwell introduces his thesis with an account of the healthy citizens of Roseto, Pennsylvania, a town of about 1,500 residents, most of them descended from families who immigrated from Roseto Valfortore, Italy. In the middle of the twentieth century, it seems, the inhabitants of Roseto had extraordinarily low incidents of heart disease, and this well before cholesterol-lowering drugs had been invented. Was it because of their “Mediterranean” eating habits? No, they had switched to the American diet. Was it genes? No, immigrants from Roseto Valfortore living elsewhere in America were not exceptionally healthy. Could it have something to do with the region? Again, no, since neighboring small towns of immigrants showed average levels of unhealthiness.

Gladwell's use of the Roseto story is an introduction to his faults as an author.

The answer, according to Dr. Stewart Wolf, was the especially close-knit, supportive community that existed in Roseto, Pennsylvania.

malcolm gladwell outliers critical review

Gladwell’s conclusion: Roseto demonstrated that to understand why someone is healthy, doctors “had to look beyond the individual. They had to understand the culture he or she was part of, and who their friends and families were, and what town their families came from. They had to appreciate the idea that the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are. In Outliers , I want to do for our understanding of success what Stewart Wolf did for our understanding of health.”

Now, I bow to no one in my admiration of close-knit, supportive communities, and perhaps Wolf’s theory is correct. But Gladwell’s use of the Roseto story is not only an introduction to his theory, it is an introduction to his faults as an author. His standard technique is to find some little-known specialist whose theories suit his prejudices and those of The New Yorker ’s audience. That done, Gladwell becomes the theorist’s unquestioning advocate.

This is, in fact, the technique now used by most of our leading journalists: One saw it at work during the reign of Eliot Spitzer, when reporters simply adopted his theory of the business activities he was prosecuting. Obviously, this technique guarantees that the stories and books written by leading journalists are largely worthless. Yes, the stories win Pulitzer Prizes, as Gretchen Morgenson’s did. Yes, the books become best-sellers, as Gladwell’s have. But those awards and rewards come from stroking the prejudices of the intellectual elite and its hangers-on. The works themselves have no lasting merit as “the first rough draft of history,” because the authors do not question their pet theories. All over the Western world, intellectuals are screaming that we must “interrogate” the texts of our Western canon. But when they confront an idea they wish to believe, interrogation stops.

Take the present instance. What question about Roseto might Gladwell have asked his sources? Well, the answer is staring him in the face. He might have asked: “Is it possible that Roseto is an outlier, in the true statistical sense?” After all, consider how many small communities there were in America during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. That is easily determined by checking the U.S. Statistical Abstract : in 1930, there were about 3,000; in 1940, about 3,200; in 1950, about 3,400. Assume that the health of their citizens was largely determined by things like diet, personal life-style, genetics, and environment. What is the likelihood that, even so, one of those 3,000-plus communities would happen to have a health profile that was a statistical outlier? That would be a question worth asking. Perhaps sheer chance explains Roseto’s health statistics. But if you don’t like that conclusion, then study the records in those other 3,000 small communities and see if the health of their citizens is significantly correlated with the community characteristics you believe are responsible for the health of Roseto’s citizens.

STARS AND SUPERSTARS

Obviously, Gladwell is not interested in the statistical phenomenon of outliers. He is interested in what workaday journalists would call “stars and superstars.” But designating “stars and superstars” with the seemingly scientific term “outliers” is the sort of trick that makes Gladwell a, well, superstar among journalists—and probably an outlier where salary is concerned, too.

Because his introductory example, the healthy paesani of Roseto, is essentially irrelevant to his thesis about personal success, Gladwell must start anew in chapter one with his most powerful example. Back in the 1980s, a Canadian psychologist named Roger Barnesley pointed out that in any large group of elite Canadian hockey players, approximately 40 percent will be born between January and March, 30 percent between April and June, 20 percent between July and September, and only 10 percent between October and December. The explanation, he believes, is that boys begin playing very early and are grouped by age. At the age of nine or ten, the most successful players are placed into more elite groups and receive better coaching, face better opponents, and enjoy more playing time. But at the age of nine or ten, the “most successful” will tend to be those who are slightly bigger, for no other reason than that they are a few months older.

This drives Gladwell up the wall. His conclusion? “We prematurely write off people as failures. We are too much in awe of those who succeed and far too dismissive of those who fail. And, most of all, we become much too passive. We overlook just how large a role we all play—and by ‘we’ I mean society—in determining who makes it and who doesn’t.” His prescription: “We could easily take control of the machinery of achievement, in other words—not just in sport, but, as we will see, in other more consequential areas as well. But we don’t. And why? Because we cling to the idea that success is a simple function of individual merit and that the world in which we all grow up and the rules we choose to write as a society don’t matter at all.”

Now, it is instructive to look at the chart of the Medicine Hat Tigers hockey team that Gladwell provides to make his case. Here are the dates of birth that he finds so infuriating:

Birth Months

Jan, Feb, Mar

Apr, May, Jun

Jul, Aug, Sep

Oct, Nov, Dec

However, Gladwell does not mention that, in addition to a prevalence of people born early in the year, boys who are taller and heavier than average predominate. For example, the average American boy, aged 16 to 20, is 5’8”. Here are the heights of the Medicine Hat Tigers:

Likewise, the average weight of an American male, between the ages of 16 and 20, is 135–160 lbs. Here are the weights of the Medicine Hat Tigers:

Doubtless, Gladwell thinks these latter two characteristics constitute a perfectly acceptable sort of discrimination, while being born earlier in the year does not. But why? The reason, I suppose, is that the latter two are largely genetic, while the first results from a “mere convention,” grouping people born in January with those born in December and declaring them to be the same age. But this is sheer Rousseaueanism on Gladwell’s part: Nature good; Convention bad. In truth, the attributes that we possess by virtue of our civilization’s traditions and customs are no less a part of our personal identity than are the attributes we possess by virtue of our genetic code. Thus, Gladwell fails to note the greatest discrimination of all among Medicine Hat Tigers: twenty-three of the twenty-five players were born in Canada. If grouping people by time is a mere convention, surely it is also a mere convention to group them by place. If we are going to throw out the calendar, surely we must also throw out the nation-state.

STRAIT ARE THE GATES

Above I cited the example of Bill Gates to illustrate the true concept of an “outlier” among college dropouts. Unsurprisingly, Gladwell also cites him, but as an “outlier” in his sense: as a superstar among fortune builders.

And how does Gladwell account for the fact that Gates became the world’s richest man? As you might expect, he alleges that it happened because of an unearned opportunity bestowed upon Gates. Readers of the biography Hard Drive will know that Bill Gates was sent by his well-to-do parents to a prep school in Seattle, Lakeside. The school had acquired some computer time on a Digital Equipment mini-computer owned by General Electric. Says Gladwell: “The lesson here is very simple. But it is striking how often it is overlooked. We are so caught up in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth. We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that’s the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today?”

Of course, the idea of “many Microsofts” is as absurd as the idea of “many Standard Oils.” Gates and Rockefeller became fabulously wealthy by achieving exclusive positions. Had the government provided a million young men with computer time in 1968, the result may have been many more computer companies but not “many Microsofts.” And who is to say that the government would have subsidized computer science rather than some other discipline? As I remember 1968, the youngsters themselves would likely have demanded courses in transcendental meditation.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY

Let me be fair to Gladwell. We cannot satirize him by saying that he calls for the society envisioned in Kurt Vonnegut’s story “Harrison Bergeron”:

Gladwell concedes that great success requires a minimum amount of innate “ability”—IQ, musical talent, height, weight, whatever. And he does not object to that. But he is insistent that everyone above the minimum is functionally equal. In that sense, Gladwell is the ultimate opponent of bell curves. He endorses the suggestion of Barry Schwartz that elite schools should put the names of everyone capable of “doing the work” on slips of paper and draw their entering classes from a hat. (As a counter to this notion of “minimum ability,” and to several other of Gladwell’s theories, I recommend chapter six in Charles Murray’s Human Accomplishment , which may be the best available explanation for outstanding achievement as such and in all fields.)

Did Bill Gates become the world's richest man because of an unearned opportunity bestowed upon him?

Let it be said, too, that Gladwell believes hard work is necessary for success. In fact, as one might expect, he has a gee-whiz theory to explain just how much hard work is necessary: a theory from psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, who examined students at Berlin’s Academy of Music. Those who went on to become elite performers were found to have practiced for 10,000 hours; those who became merely good performers practiced for 8,000 hours; those who became music teachers practiced for 4,000 hours. Ericsson and his colleagues “couldn’t find any ‘naturals,’ musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any ‘grinds,’ people who worked harder than everyone else, yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it.”

Thus, the notion that hangs Outliers is “equal opportunity.” Like many a collectivist before him, Gladwell insinuates that the free society promised to be a pure meritocracy—rewarding “the fittest” and the hardest working with the greatest success—but that it has failed to keep its promise. The situation can be remedied, he believes, if government intervenes and equalizes opportunity. Were it to do that, then success would depend only on having the minimum level of ability required for a task or profession and willingness to work hard at it. Socially, the result would be a patterned system of fairness in which rewards (at least within a single line of endeavor) were proportionately distributed to the talented and energetic.

Notice that this obsession with equality of opportunity infects not only the egalitarian Left but also the neoconservative Right. For example, neoconservative opposition to affirmative action regulations is not merely an opposition to having government mandates imposed on private institutions, such as businesses and universities. It is a per se opposition to the employment of any standard but “objective merit,” mainly test scores. Thus, when neoconservatives came out against the racial quotas being used by college admission departments, they were quickly forced to concede that admissions departments should also abolish “legacy” quotas for the children of alumni. In Gladwell-like fashion, neo-conservatives agreed that having high SAT scores is a legitimate “natural” qualification, while having an alumni parent is an unjustifiable “conventional” one.

LIBERTARIAN AND CONSERVATIVE ANSWERS

Libertarians have generally opposed all attempts to seek “patterned fairness” in the distribution of materials rewards. Thus, in The Constitution of Liberty , Friedrich von Hayek wrote:

Responding for the neo-conservatives, Irving Kristol wrote:

My own outlook is somewhat different from Hayek’s or Kristol’s. I do believe that in a free society there is a general tendency for the competent and industrious to fare better than the incompetent and the idle. That, of course, is true not only of a free society. It is true of every good society. So I am merely asserting that a free society is one type of good society. But pace Paul Elmer More, the ownership of property is not the symbol of success in a capitalist society. The ability to command property may be such a symbol, but that is a subtler thing and often has little to do with the market. James D. Watson, at the height of his fame, may have been a much less wealthy man than certain rock stars and athletes. But he clearly outranked them in power and privilege.

Of course, Malcolm Gladwell does not doubt that a free society secures more rewards to the competent and industrious than to the incompetent and the lazy. What he laments is that the competent and industrious who have opportunities secure more rewards than the competent and industrious who do not have opportunities. This is anathema to him because he thinks it means that “rewards” tend not to be apportioned according to “merit.”

But Gladwell is mistaken. The rewards reaped by those blessed with opportunities do tend to be the rewards of merit in a free society. They are the rewards of the merit exercised by those who exploit their opportunities, combined with the merit of those who earned the wherewithal to provide the opportunities. The good education a son gets at his father’s school is the combined product of his own merit and his father’s merit.

Even so, however, the fate of a person in a free society will always depend a bit on chance. Pluck must have luck as well as opportunity. But what is wrong with that?

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Outliers Summary

1-Sentence-Summary:   Outliers explains why “the self-made man” is a myth and what truly lies behind the success of the best people in their field, which is often a series of lucky events, rare opportunities and other external factors, which are out of our control.

Favorite quote from the author:

Outliers Summary

Table of Contents

Video Summary

Outliers review, audio summary, who would i recommend the outliers summary to.

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The only thing I knew about Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers , was that this is the book that the 10,000 hour rule came from. The rule says to become world-class at anything, you have to put in 10,000 hours of practice, which equals to about 5 years of uninterrupted 40-hour workweeks worth of practice. In reality, it’s often closer to 10 years.

Therefore, I expected the book to be about deliberate practice and how success is in your own hands , if you work hard enough. Boy, was I wrong. The book argues the exact opposite.

Here is a summary of Outliers in just 3 lessons:

  • After you cross a certain skill threshold, your abilities won’t help you.
  • The month you’re born in matters.
  • Asians are good at math, because where you come from matters.

Let’s see what it takes to be an outlier!

If you want to save this summary for later, download the free PDF and read it whenever you want.

Lesson 1: After you cross a certain skill threshold, your abilities won’t help you.

To debunk the myth of the “self-made man”, which might be the most popular myth of our time, Gladwell first looked at how much your skills really influence where you end up in life.

Of course practice matters, and so do genetic predispositions in sports, but there are limits to their influence. As it turns out, once you cross a certain threshold with your skills and abilities, any extra won’t do you much good .

For example, since the 1980s, the average height of an NBA basketball player has been 6′ 7″ . Even if you grow to be 7′ tall, those additional inches won’t give you a huge advantage over other players.

Gladwell also looked at law school students and their performance. Some law schools lower their admission requirements for racial minorities, and even though these students tend to perform worse than their non-minority peers both before and in law school, this gap completely disappears once they graduate .

They make the same valuable contributions, get paid just as much and receive as many honors as their peers. Why?

Because once you’ve reached a certain level of legal expertise, other factors start to take over and influence your career, like social skills, how good your network is, and even catching a lucky break.

Lesson 2: Being born in the wrong month can put you at a disadvantage.

Remember when you saw an 8th grader in high school date a 10th grader? You were probably shocked! “He’s 2 years older than her, that’s insane!” – I still remember the comments, it was a huge deal in our school.

However, when you’re 40 and take your wife to dinner with the neighbors, nobody would be surprised to hear she’s 38, 42, or even several more years older or younger than you.

That’s because  relative age matters, especially when you’re young.  How old you are compared to your peers can give you a huge advantage or disadvantage, for example in sports.

Gladwell found out that most professional Canadian hockey players, who end up in the NHL, are born in the first half of the year. In fact, twice as many have birthdays in the first quarter as in the last .

That’s because the annual cutoff date for youth teams is January 1st, meaning kids born in December have to compete with their friends who are almost a year older than they are. When you’re 8 years old, you stand no chance against a 9 year old in terms of strength and speed – the difference is huge when a year makes up 12.5% of your entire life.

Think through your own life, and you’ll see this happens all the time. I too suffered from this problem in school!

Lesson 3: Asians are good at math, because where you come from matters.

If you think age is bad, try imagining being born somewhere entirely different . Warren Buffett always says he’s been lucky to have been born into the United States at the time he was , because a few thousand years ago, with his kinds of genes, he’d have been some animal’s lunch.

For example, Gladwell says there’s a reason for the stereotype that “Asians are good at math.” Several factors actually  are  in favor of Asians becoming relatively good at it.

First, Asian languages are set up so that children learn to add numbers simultaneously with learning to count. Second, hundreds of years of building a traditional culture around farming rice has instilled a great sense of discipline into Asian culture.

Unlike farming wheat or corn, farming rice is hard. It needs a lot more precision, control, coordination and patience. Rice farmers could also reap the full rewards of their work, whereas European farmers were often robbed of a big part of their harvest by greedy landlords and nobility, leaving them far less motivated to do their best.

Just like rice farming, math is hard. You have to stick with problems and let the gears in your brain crunch until you work it out. Europeans often give up a lot faster on hard math questions than their Asian peers, because neither math nor discipline are a part of their cultural legacy.

So yes, where you’re born matters .

I loved The Tipping Point , and I expect Outliers to be just as awesome. I’m really glad I read the summary first. Now, I’m even more interested in it than before. It is refreshing to hear some counter-arguments to the “self-made man” myth. I hope you enjoyed our brief book summary of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. This one’s definitely worth your time.

Listen to the audio of this summary with a free reading.fm account:

The 21-year-old with a weakness for motivational talks, who’s sure if he just keeps working hard every day, he’ll eventually get his dream, the 38-year-old Mum, who’s worried her child might get bullied in school for being younger, and anyone who thinks Asians are good at math is a stupid cliché.

Last Updated on July 28, 2022

book review on outliers

Niklas Göke

Niklas Göke is an author and writer whose work has attracted tens of millions of readers to date. He is also the founder and CEO of Four Minute Books, a collection of over 1,000 free book summaries teaching readers 3 valuable lessons in just 4 minutes each. Born and raised in Germany, Nik also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration & Engineering from KIT Karlsruhe and a Master’s Degree in Management & Technology from the Technical University of Munich. He lives in Munich and enjoys a great slice of salami pizza almost as much as reading — or writing — the next book — or book summary, of course!

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Outliers Book Review

Outliers book review by malcolm gladwell.

Outliers Book Review

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Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Subjects: entrepreneurship; self-improvement.

Welcome back to the first book club feature of 2020. We’ll begin our book club with an absolute banger: Outliers Book Review by Malcolm Gladwell .

This book is a great opener for a few reasons but namely because it dissects common misperceptions around success and what makes a person successful.

If you asked me what makes a person successful before reading this book, I might have responded “talent, hard work and perseverance”.

All of these qualities indeed make a person successful, but my theory misses one major feature: circumstance.

Timing plays a huge role in one’s success, as does their geographic location, cultural norms, and who they are outside of their talents.

“Who we are cannot be separated from where we’re from” – Malcolm Gladwell

Summary Notes:

  • If you put in 10,000 hours you can master anything
  • This equates to roughly 5 years, working 40 hours per week
  • In reality, it takes most people 10 years
  • After you pass a certain skill threshold, your abilities won’t help you
  • The month you’re born in matters

Outliers Book Review

Who will enjoy this book?

If understanding why a person is successful or how certain people in history have found success (i.e. Bill Gates is a subject in chapter two) , then this book is for you. The most actionable piece of advice from the book comes from the same chapter which outlines the 10,000 hours rule. This is said to be the amount of time it takes a person to master a skill. So matched with being in the right place at the right time, a person can achieve success through committing 10,000 hours to reach success. Mozart is another example used in the chapter and the more you apply the rule, the more it rings true.

When reading this book I would urge you to apply these concepts toward your own successes or failures. Just by picking this book up off the shelf suggests you have an interest to do so and by using an introspective lens you can create a clearer path toward what it is you look to achieve.

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Brooke Saward

Brooke Saward founded World of Wanderlust as a place to share inspiration from her travels and to inspire others to see our world. She now divides her time between adventures abroad and adventures in the kitchen, with a particular weakness for French pastries.

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A few snapshots from Island life in Koh Samui 🥹🌴 just shared my blog posts from this trip in Thailand and now craving mango sticky rice pudding, the kindness and hospitality of Thai people and those buffet breakfast spreads (the kinda ones that keep you full til dinner). My stay at @fskohsamui was like something out of a story book. Especially that last photo - that night was one to remember 🫶🏼 #kohsamui #thailand #travel #travelblog #thailandtravel

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Outliers by malcolm gladwell. book review..

Outlier – a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set. Ex. people whose achievements fall outside normal experience.

outliers book by malcolm gladwell

I’m not quite a fan of self-help books, and I don’t really know why. Perhaps because I haven’t really found the one that really inspired me. Although I do have a thing for Psychology books, especially the Feeling Good book by Dr. Burns. I’ve read countless self-help books in the past, but I always seem to just forget about them right after finishing the last page. Recently, I was wandering around at my local Barnes & Noble and I stumbled at the Psychology area when I found this minimalistic book by Malcolm Gladwell called the “Outliers” . I immediately read the back part and was truly intrigued by it. Then it dawned on me, a friend suggested this book to me before but I didn’t really pay that much attention, so, this time, I know I’ve got to read this book. I was so intrigued about knowing the people we consider Outliers , and the whole term is sort of news to me. So, I bought the book in Amazon since it’s cheaper there and I started reading it non-stop.

I wouldn’t call this a self-help book, it’s not really, but more like a non-fiction inspirational book about understanding the people we call as Outliers in this world. Most of our understanding of the path to success and about very successful people are defined by the misconception that you have to have an innate talent, or that you have to be hardworking. Truth is, in this book, talent and hardwork are indeed parts of success, but these two qualities are not enough. Yes, you have to work so hard and have a talent, but you also need to be born at the right circumstances. These circumstances are very important in achieving success and that is how we can understand that the Outliers of the world didn’t just start from scratch or came from nothing and then became very successful. Further, this book will answer why there are no star hockey players born in the Fall, or why the smartest man in the world is not necessarily the most successful in life.

malcolm gladwell the outliers

This book is an eye-opener and will change the way you view life. It puts everything in perspective and will make you realize why such very successful people exist. The answer is pretty much right there, you just have to make sense of it. With that being said, it doesn’t mean that nobody can be successful, the book will tell you that if only we’d applied what we know of success in all its complexities and elements, then we’d have more Outliers in this world, and in that sense, there won’t be such thing as an Outlier at all.

I highly recommend this book, as well as some other books by Malcolm Gladwell. He’s definitely my favorite author now and I just like the way he writes and explains things. He is very keen on observing our society and its occurrences. So, for that, I’ve already started reading his other books like “ The Tipping Point ” and “ Blink “. However, this Outlier book holds a special place in my heart. It’s a fascinating read that will inspire you to learn about people’s success stories and realize that success truly doesn’t happen overnight or from scratch, it’s a much more complicated event that happens when all the right circumstances and all the forces of nature combined to make a dream a reality.

The Outliers book by Malcolm Gladwell is currently available at http://www.amazon.com or at Audible  as an audiobook.

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Book Review: 'Loving Sylvia Plath' attends to polarizing writer's circumstances more than her work

A popular form of writing nowadays is one that involves reexamining the lives of people, often members of marginalized groups, who have otherwise been flattened or short-changed by history

A popular form of writing nowadays is one that involves reexamining the lives of people, often members of marginalized groups, who have otherwise been flattened or short-changed by history.

How has society’s assumptions or prejudices informed how a person is remembered, many authors are asking, and what information is available to us that may tell a more complete story?

These are the questions Emily Van Duyne, an associate professor at Stockton University, asks in “Loving Sylvia Plath: A Reclamation.”

In the wake of Plath’s death by suicide, her husband and fellow writer Ted Hughes constructed a narrative that he was the “stabilizing factor” in his wife’s life but that, in the end, even he couldn’t save her. But Van Duyne rejects any notion that Plath was a bad mother or merely a morbid poet. She maintains Plath ought to be remembered as a complicated woman, a formidable writer — one who outshined Hughes — and almost certainly a victim of domestic abuse.

This book is not, for the most part, a hermeneutic study or close reading of Plath’s writings. Rather, Van Duyne’s source material for this reclaimed portrait of Plath are her circumstances.

Van Duyne seeks to subvert Hughes’ narrative of Plath’s life and what drove her to end it. In the wake of #MeToo and cultural conversations about believing women, Van Duyne argues Plath’s story ought to be given a fresh look.

Those wanting a primer on reading Plath or a comprehensive biography should look elsewhere to the plethora of extant literature on the enigmatic literary giant. But “Loving Sylvia Plath: A Reclamation” should be seen as supplementary material for those seeking to better understand the circumstances surrounding her final years.

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Outliers: The Story of Success

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Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers: The Story of Success Hardcover – Large Print, November 18, 2008

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  • Print length 464 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date November 18, 2008
  • Dimensions 6 x 1.25 x 8.25 inches
  • ISBN-10 031602497X
  • ISBN-13 978-0316024976
  • Lexile measure 1080L
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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Little, Brown and Company; Large type / Large print edition (November 18, 2008)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 464 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 031602497X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0316024976
  • Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ 1080L
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.25 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6 x 1.25 x 8.25 inches
  • #131 in Business Decision Making
  • #254 in Decision-Making & Problem Solving
  • #281 in Popular Social Psychology & Interactions

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About the author

Malcolm gladwell.

Malcolm Gladwell has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1996. He is the author of The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw. Prior to joining The New Yorker, he was a reporter at the Washington Post. Gladwell was born in England and grew up in rural Ontario. He now lives in New York.

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Customers find the book's content usable and hard-working. They also say the writing style is well-presented, endearing, and comfortable. Readers describe the plot as engaging, exciting, and steady. They praise the writing quality as high and never strayed from its overall ethos. However, some customers feel the tone is not as interesting and distressing.

AI-generated from the text of customer reviews

Customers find the book has usable insight, a deeper message, and a historical look at how people become successful. They also say the stories are supported with statistics and show the importance of hard work. Readers say the book offers a good primer for people and is fascinating.

"...It offers some interesting perspectives about what makes some people more successful than others, with particular emphasis on those who far exceed..." Read more

"...Not only providing us with accurate scientific information , but also making it enjoyable and easier for most people to pick up...." Read more

"...It is interesting, clearly written, and the argument is logically presented and, for the most part, well supported...." Read more

"...There is also an interesting theory of why Asian students did well in mathematics compared to American students...." Read more

Customers find the book pretty easy to read, with a narrative that is simple and complex. They also appreciate the beautiful writing, which flows effortlessly and is a joy to read. Readers also appreciate that it's written in bite-sized pieces, making it enjoyable and easier for most people to pick up. They say the book is elucidating and challenging, all at the same time.

"...This is simply a fine book, a very thoughtful and easy read ...." Read more

"...scientific information, but also making it enjoyable and easier for most people to pick up ...." Read more

"...It is interesting, clearly written , and the argument is logically presented and, for the most part, well supported...." Read more

"...His style is both easy to read and informative...." Read more

Customers find the plot engaging, riveting, and thought provoking. They also say the author does a great job of linking events and stories together to show that success is a true page turner. Customers also mention that the book starts out fine and is steady.

"...with Gladwell's other books, it's written in a manner that keeps the reader interested and moving through it quickly...." Read more

"...Even though non-fiction it is a page turner and there are copious notes at the back for those who wish to explore further...." Read more

"...-known, for example, that The Beatles became a really great, tight cohesive band after essentially playing non-stop in Hamburg for years...." Read more

"...explains his thought process without rambling and kept me interested and engaged throughout the whole book...." Read more

Customers find the writing style interesting, unique, easy to read, and memorable. They also appreciate the subject matter in distilled, memorable format.

"...I think that is a mistake. This is simply a fine book, a very thoughtful and easy read...." Read more

"...For a better understanding of the Beatles' incredible personal charm , I recommend their first movie, "A Hard Day's Night," which is recognized by..." Read more

"...That said, I enjoyed Gladwell's easy style and sales pitch ." Read more

"...Overall a great read that gives one an exceptional view of the exceptional ." Read more

Customers find the writing quality of the book high, strong, and convincing. They also say the book never strayed from its overall ethos.

"...and the argument is logically presented and, for the most part, well supported ...." Read more

"...The material is believable because it is built on a strong foundation .This book picks at another politically incorrect issue...." Read more

"...It's an interesting idea and Gladwell argues it well . This seems to imply hard work is required to succeed, contradicting the ideas of determinism...." Read more

"...The style is casual and narrative, yet constructed with precision ...." Read more

Customers find the examples in the book great and interesting. They also mention that the book covers many factors that can cause a person to make it big.

"...It covers a great many factors that can cause a person to "make it big" from the effect that birthdays can have on sports players as well as the..." Read more

"...there were different stories and different characters which gave the book more variety ...." Read more

"...The suggestions for equalizing opportunity are interesting , as they call not for reducing someone else's opportunity but simply for some..." Read more

"... He picks great examples and this really helps the book...." Read more

Customers find the story enlightening, maddening, hard to put down, and up to the point. They also appreciate the colorful narratives that illustrate principals that directly apply to personal experiences. Readers also say the full version is worth the effort and classic Gladwell.

"...It was hard to put down . This was the first of Mr. Gladwell's works I read, but then quickly read others which seem to have the same merit." Read more

"...It was a stimulating read and I finished in a few hours. It was hard to put down , and I came away with some interesting new observations that, like..." Read more

"...An enlightening, maddening book that should be required reading for every high school student." Read more

"...with many of his arguments is that they are too simplistic, often sensationalistic and unfounded...." Read more

Customers find the tone of the book poor, depressing, and lacking focus. They also say the book is not worth it, with weak ideas and cultural stereotypes. Readers also mention that the chapter is painful to read and the obsession with death and negativity makes it difficult to digest.

"...There's such an obsession with death and negativity that I found the book difficult to digest and follow without compartmentalizing large chunks...." Read more

"...are obviously cherry-picked and, frankly, some of it is just a waste of time ...." Read more

"...The one thing I feel that I struggle against daily is a lack of interest in learning on the part of students and their families...." Read more

"...The chapter is painful to read because it falls in many cultural stereotypes that have no basis whatsoever...." Read more

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book review on outliers

A Little Free Library contains banned books in Houston

Kevin McGill, Associated Press Kevin McGill, Associated Press

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  • Copy URL https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/u-s-appeals-court-will-review-its-prior-order-in-a-texas-countys-library-book-ban-case

U.S. appeals court will review its prior order in a Texas county’s library book ban case

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court in New Orleans is taking another look at its own order requiring a Texas county to keep eight books on public library shelves that deal with subjects including sex, gender identity and racism.

Llano County officials had removed 17 books from its shelves amid complaints about the subject matter. Seven library patrons claimed the books were illegally removed in a lawsuit against county officials. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ruled last year that the books must be returned. Attorneys for Llano County say the books were returned while they appeal Pittman’s order.

WATCH: Library book ban attempts are at an all-time high. These librarians are fighting back

While the library patrons say removing the books constitutes an illegal government squelching of viewpoints, county officials have argued that they have broad authority to decide which books belong on library shelves and that those decisions are a form of constitutionally protected government speech.

On June 6, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals split three ways on the case, resulting in an order that eight of the books had to be kept on the shelves, while nine others could be kept off.

That order was vacated Wednesday evening after a majority of the 17-member court granted Llano County officials a new hearing before the full court. The order did not state reasons and the hearing hasn’t yet been scheduled.

In his 2023 ruling, Pitman, nominated to the federal bench by former President Barack Obama, ruled that the library plaintiffs had shown Llano officials were “driven by their antipathy to the ideas in the banned books.” The works ranged from children’s books to award-winning nonfiction, including “They Called Themselves the K.K.K: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group,” by Susan Campbell Bartoletti; and “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health,” by Robie Harris.

Pitman was largely upheld by the 5th Circuit panel that ruled June 6. The main opinion was by Judge Jacques Wiener, nominated to the court by former President George H. W. Bush. Wiener said the books were clearly removed at the behest of county officials who disagreed with the books’ messages.

Judge Leslie Southwick, a nominee of former President George W. Bush, largely agreed but said some of the removals might stand a court test as the case progresses, noting that some of the books dealt more with “juvenile, flatulent humor” than weightier subjects.

Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan, a nominee of former President Donald Trump, dissented fully, saying his colleagues “have appointed themselves co-chairs of every public library board across the Fifth Circuit.”

The circuit covers federal courts in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

The decision to rehear the case was a victory for Llano County, whose lawyers argued that there were numerous errors in the June 6 opinion, including the incorrect claim that the books had not been returned the shelves pending appeals.

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A US appeals court will review its prior order keeping banned books on shelves in a Texas county

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FILE - Llano resident Emily Decker protests outside a Llano County Commissioner’s Court meeting at the Llano County Law Enforcement Center, April 13, 2023, in Llano, Texas. A federal appeals court in New Orleans is taking another look at its own order requiring Llano County, Texas, to keep eight books on public library shelves that deal with subjects including sex, gender identity and racism. County officials had removed over a dozen books from its shelves amid complaints about the subject matter. (Aaron E. Martinez/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File)

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court in New Orleans is taking another look at its own order requiring a Texas county to keep eight books on public library shelves that deal with subjects including sex, gender identity and racism.

Llano County officials had removed 17 books from its shelves amid complaints about the subject matter. Seven library patrons claimed the books were illegally removed in a lawsuit against county officials. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ruled last year that the books must be returned. Attorneys for Llano County say the books were returned while they appeal Pittman’s order.

While the library patrons say removing the books constitutes an illegal government squelching of viewpoints, county officials have argued that they have broad authority to decide which books belong on library shelves and that those decisions are a form of constitutionally protected government speech.

On June 6, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals split three ways on the case, resulting in an order that eight of the books had to be kept on the shelves, while nine others could be kept off.

Image

That order was vacated Wednesday evening after a majority of the 17-member court granted Llano County officials a new hearing before the full court. The order did not state reasons and the hearing hasn’t yet been scheduled.

In his 2023 ruling, Pitman, nominated to the federal bench by former President Barack Obama, ruled that the library plaintiffs had shown Llano officials were “driven by their antipathy to the ideas in the banned books.” The works ranged from children’s books to award-winning nonfiction, including “They Called Themselves the K.K.K: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group,” by Susan Campbell Bartoletti; and “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health,” by Robie Harris.

Pitman was largely upheld by the 5th Circuit panel that ruled June 6. The main opinion was by Judge Jacques Wiener, nominated to the court by former President George H. W. Bush. Wiener said the books were clearly removed at the behest of county officials who disagreed with the books’ messages.

Judge Leslie Southwick, a nominee of former President George W. Bush, largely agreed but said some of the removals might stand a court test as the case progresses, noting that some of the books dealt more with “juvenile, flatulent humor” than weightier subjects.

Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan, a nominee of former President Donald Trump, dissented fully, saying his colleagues “have appointed themselves co-chairs of every public library board across the Fifth Circuit.”

The circuit covers federal courts in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

The decision to rehear the case was a victory for Llano County, whose lawyers argued that there were numerous errors in the June 6 opinion, including the incorrect claim that the books had not been returned the shelves pending appeals.

book review on outliers

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