Saturday, January 24, 2009

Review: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (Audiobook)

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

(Unabridged Audiobook Version)

I am pleased to share this review written by my dear husband Greg. He frequently listens to audiobooks during his 90 minute commute to and from work. I hope we'll see more reviews from Greg in the future.

Why are some people wildly successful? Is it strictly due to ability alone or could there be other factors at play? We are a culture of hero worshippers, could that bias us more towards the belief that individual ability is the essence of success? Is there a reason to believe you're safer when a less experienced pilot is flying the airplane? These are the kinds of questions Malcolm Gladwell explores in Outliers. The subject matter here is Outliers, those individuals such as Bill Gates, whose success doesn't fit into statistical norms. Having already listened to his two earlier books The Tipping Point and Blink, I came to appreciate Gladwell as a rather iconoclastic sort whose ideas buck the common wisdom. Those not used to observing patterns and applying critical thought to observed events and trends would likely be dismissive of his ideas, yet he offers supporting data as well as compelling rationale for his conclusions. Take for example, the counter-intuitive correlation between professional Hockey players and the month in which they were born. Here Gladwell has done his homework and provides a rather surprising rationale. Could there be subtle age related effects at play? The message becomes even more critical when one considers that the same effects parallel rankings and placements within our educational system. More speculative, yet convincingly supported, is an association between cultural differences based on language and work ethic where Gladwell concludes that a history of rice farming actually provides a strong foundation for excelling at mathematics.

This audio book is organized into three parts. The first part focuses on the effects of timing and opportunity on success whereas the second part deals with advantages conferred to one by virtue of their heritage and upbringing alone. The third part is an interview with Gladwell himself, where he takes a reflective view of his own heritage and how a series of unlikely events have landed him to where he is today. Gladwell narrates throughout, which enhances the overall quality of the listening experience.

The broad lesson imparted here by Gladwell's message is that things are not always what they superficially appear to be. The laws of unintended consequences and second order effects should not be ignored. Our society could reap significant benefits by revisiting its own established sacred cow policies and traditions with an open and critical mind combined with a healthy willingness to alter them. This stance should be emphasized in situations where the intent is to judge one by their own merit. The net effect could be to better utilize the talent pool within our society, not only for individual benefit, but for the collective benefit of all.

Thank you to Hachette Books for sending this audiobook.


  1. A friend on Goodreads recommended this book to me. I find your review interesting but I'm still on the fence in regards to whether or not I will read it. Thanks for a great post!

  2. Nice review! Audio books are perfect for long drives & commutes!

  3. Sounds interesting. I'd love to listen to this one. milou2ster(at)

  4. This sounds like a great book! Please enter me in the give away, Bonnie.

  5. I just listened to a speech Malcolm gave on the man who revolutionized the spaghetti sauce industy. It was super interesting. He's a great speaker and I'd LOVE to be entered in the contest you're hosting. Thanks!

  6. Great review! I have heard so much about this book.

    P.S. Love your header!

  7. I read Blink and really enjoyed it. I love his books. Thanks for the review.

  8. Malcolm Gladwell approaches his subject matter from such a unique perspective and I would love to win this audiobook! I'm not sure that I will agree with all of his theories...who would?...but it makes you think and that's the point, right?

    Thanks for the chance to win!

    kellifrobinson2 AT gmail DOT com


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