Outliers

Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book Outliers has received some unflattering reviews.

I think part of the reason for that is that the author is famous and so it does invite a few potshots every now and then. Plus, Gladwell’s writings often seem to invite the scorn of critics who say that he oversimplifies things or that he simplifies stuff that is complicated. Fascinating but they’re missing what Gladwell brings to his books (and his writing).

Gladwell has a terrific ability to distill complex information (usually scientific or psychological) and to weave a narrative (or anecdotes) around said information. He did it with The Tipping Point, he did it with Blink and he’s done it with Outliers. Except for a small bit in the middle of the book, Outliers is really interesting and I could not put the book down. I would never have heard or read about some of the studies or people if not for the book. (By the way, writing stuff that people can understand easily is not as easy as it seems–it is far easier to write stuff that is hard to understand.)

Whether you agree with the theories that Gladwell puts forth in Outliers, you have to agree that what he writes about is interesting and that it in this book’s case he makes you ponder the nature of success. Some of what he writes about is common sense, some it is conjecture, a lot of it is anecdotal but it is almost always interesting.

That’s a good enough reason to read Outliers or indeed any book.

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