Book review: Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

It's the first Malcolm Gladwell book I read and I'm well impressed. It's a pleasant read that challenges various preconceptions. It does seem heavily based on anecdotes but I think the people used as examples illustrate the points made well enough. The overall style of the book often reminded me of "Freakonomics" -- if you didn't like the style you probably won't like this one either.

The thesis of the book is that there is more than "hard work" and/or "being smart" to becoming an outlier in any field. People who make it big were also given incredible opportunities to learn and put in their 10,000 hours of training before they could shine. They worked hard for sure, but most of the time when and where you're born matters just as much. "Genius" and mastery aren't necessarily innate and don't matter as much as many people like to think either.

The second section of the book talks about cultural legacies and is fairly interesting as well, showing the impact on domains ranging from plane crashes to maths & reading ability to local feuds. As someone who's been living in a fairly different culture than my home country's for a few years now, I enjoyed reading chapters that clarified some of the things I've experienced but could not explain (like the effect of the "power distance index" on human interactions).

It's a light read that I have no problems recommending. I'm going to get "Blink" from the same author next.


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