Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review: Outliers

I really enjoyed Outliers: the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. The premise of this book is, what makes high-achievers (and low achievers, really) different? Gladwell argues that the answer lies much less in their innate talent (or faults), and more in the atmosphere surrounding them - their culture, family, upbringing, etc. Some of these factors may be obvious - your parents education level has a huge impact on you, which makes sense - and many are not. I was particularly interested in his examination of the "Culture of Honor" and why the famed Hatfield-McCoy feud was not the rarity I thought (for more, here's an excerpt from Outliers).

I will say that I had heard Gladwell interviewed about this book several times, so some of it didn't feel fresh to me. For example, I had heard quite a bit about the part of the book dedicated to exploring why almost no star hockey players are born in the fall. Still, I thought it was interest and it certainly confirmed my thought that the birthday cutoff for kindergarten should be moved up from the typical December deadline (something our local school system has started doing for budget reasons).

Some readers might complain that Gladwell is oversimplifying complex social issues. They may be right. But I found this to be a fascinating look at a complicated question.

Outliers: The Story of Success was released in paperback today (June 7).