Sundry's Reviews > Outliers: The Story of Success

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
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's review
Jan 28, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: audiobooks, nonfiction
Read in June, 2009

** spoiler alert ** Some spoilers included below.

Very interesting book that discusses many studies that attempt to explain why some people become super-successful. Gladwell's out to debunk the concept of the self-made man. He posits that everyone who makes it big does so with the help of friends, family and/or historical timing.

It gave me a lot to think about and I probably quoted his ideas way too much right after listening to the book.

The theories are compelling and fascinating, but I don't think they fully explain the phenomenon of the outlier. He says Bill Gates was in a unique position when he was a kid to have access to computers, and he was...but so were the other handful of kids who had the same access but weren't so fascinated that they snuck out of the house at night to do more programming. That was him, not _just_ his time and opportunities.

Another thing that made me question Gladwell's other conclusions is that he says the reason we have traditionally had summers off from school in the U.S. is do to some old theory about kids needing rest. B.S.! It's because kids were needed on farms during the summer so people could stockpile enough food to get through the winter back before grocery stores. (There were kids in my school who even got out for a week or two in the fall to help with the final harvest.)

While Gladwell--whose prose style I like a lot--may hope that we will be glad to hear that it's not our fault that we didn't make it big, I find this sort of determinism a bit depressing.


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