Sunday, January 4, 2009

"Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell

I feel in the minority as someone who hasn't read either of Gladwell's previous books. My brother told me good things about Outliers, and then BO read and also praised it. So I cracked it open.

This is a worthwhile read for anyone trying to excel in something, or anyone interested in societal equality. Gladwell's hypothesis is that successful people are not self-made, but rather are given a series of opportunities that they capitalize on.

The book begins with Canada's system of choosing young hockey players for their development league, and shows that the boys who end up getting selected are the oldest in their academic class (January, February, March birthdays are by far the majority). Coaches choose them because they are just a little bit bigger than their peers. And then the development league gives them superior training, which increases the ability gap between themselves and the boys not chosen. And the advantages keep piling up until they eventually become professional players.

There's also a chapter that links Asians' excellence in math to their cultural heritage of farming rice paddies. The theory's a little light on evidence, although it's intriguing and deserves more research.


Abercornucopia said...

Santa also liked it as it was in my stocking this year. After your review I just might move it to the top of my "to read" pile.

Manasse said...

Weird...Tauni just bought that yesterday and is half way through it. She loves it so far.