Monday, February 22, 2010

Book Recommendation: Outliers

For those readers who are pure fiction lovers, Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, may not be the book for you.  Indeed, the only reason I reached for it on the library shelf was because, in my hurry, I thought it was a different book...I thought it was Outlanders, which I've been wanting to read and which usually has a wait list for it at the library!  Though it is obviously not the book I'd thought it to be (the subtitle is The Story of Success, but this completely escaped my glance!).  Then, I ended up reading it almost right away, despite the pile waiting for me beside my bed, because it is a one-week express loan, after which overdue fines start quickly to accumulate at $2/day.

For those who read The Tipping Point or Blink, this book is similar in nature.  Essentially, Gladwell is out to change the way that we think about success, and what it takes to be successful.  Traditionally, he says, when we think about people who are very successful, we focus on those individual's intelligence and ambitions.  He argues, though, that to understand success, we should also (even primarily) be looking at things such as people's family or origin, their birthplace, or even their birthdate.  Outliers looks at the background of and commonality between the Beatles, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and many others; he explores the hidden but common advantage of star hockey players; why the best New York lawyers have the same background; why Asian people are so extraordinarily successful at math; etc etc.  Essentially, to quote the book's jacket, "the lives of outliers - those people whose achievements fall outside normal experiences - follow a peculiar and unexpected logic."

I liked the book: it challenged some of my assumptions; presented me with some innovative and creative thoughts, backed up with lots of research; and gave me lots to think about.

Perhaps best of all for me, it became the obvious gift that I need to give to my brother-in-law for his birthday this summer (he loved Blink)...this book is quintessentially him!

Thank you for the comment:
* Gwen, re: the $2/day library fine, this is only for the hot-ticket, one-week, express-loan books, if they're brought back overdue. Normally, books can be borrowed for three weeks at a time (and then renewed if desired), and if regular books are returned late, the fine is only $0.20/day.  Thanks for being outraged on my behalf, though!

1 comment:

  1. WHAT??! $2/day? That's criminal! I'm used to 20 cents/day up here in my tiny town, and even that makes me gripe when we've got a stack of 40 books that are 3 days overdue. Yikes.

    Anyway... I can just imagine thinking I was about to read "Outlander," lighting candles and sinking into a bubble bath with a glass of chilled wine on the bathtub rim, only to discover that in fact I had "Outliers" in my hand. There would have been a roar of fury echoing through our house, let me tell you! :)