Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

February 3rd, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Oh, Malcolm Gladwell, when will you cease to amaze us with your slick volumes of incisive insight?

Following the success of The Tipping Point and Blink, Malcolm Gladwell, proud possessor of the publishing industry’s cheeriest surname, provides yet another installment in the genre he has pioneered; a genre intent on providing startling yet satisfying solutions to the world’s most vexing quandaries.

In Outliers, Gladwell takes up the predicament of success. Sure, he touches on Bill Gates Success and Beatles Success, but he also touches on Asian Math Test Success and Jewish Lawyer Success.

And he talks about perplexing realities like how a culture’s inherent modes of communication can make for poor piloting.

Outliers is a good read. Not a great read but a quick read. One that could have easily, and maybe preferably, been a long essay in The New Yorker. But that means you have no excuse not to read it. Other than its $27.95 price tag of course.

In the years to come, I am convinced that Gladwell’s books will be packaged, published, and sold together as a Collected Work. Which is great, because that’s already how it should be consumed. There are cohesive, unifying themes to Gladwell’s work, each book a mere chapter in a longer arc that is becoming his life work. But once Gladwell’s work is packaged together as I predict, we will take it for granted. We may forget how much work went into interviewing and probing all the subjects of Gladwell’s books.

Because even though I chide Gladwell & co. for charging $27.95 for such a slender book, there is no fat. And I mean none. This is a refined, smooth work from a superb journalist clearly at the height of his powers: ‘Here’s this. Here’s that. Did you notice this? What about that? And let me tell you about something else. Isn’t that interesting? See how that all came together and explained everything? Aren’t I clever? Moving on.’

Gladwell has emerged as an outlier in his own right by being an extraordinary journalist, by going where no one else is, by seeing what no one else is, and asking what no one else is.

And via this luck, determination, hard work, and I’m sure a myriad of his own special opportunities, Gladwell keeps writing important books. I don’t think anyone will be reading Outliers in 6 months, much less 5 years, (excepting the Complete Works Compendium), because Gladwell strives at bringing some of the modern world’s most potent and often unacknowledged forces to light. Gladwell is a man of his times and I honestly believe he wants his work to be a force for improving the world:

“To build a better world 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.”

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