Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

Every once in a while, a nonfiction book crosses my path that amazes me. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy nonfiction. Heck, I write a lot of it myself — probably a lot more than I write fiction. But when I read nonfiction, it often seems to drag through example after example, factoid after factoid, until I can't wait to sink my body into the soothing waters of imagination and cover my head so that every possible dream and idea can be absorbed into my brain.

But Malcolm Gladwell had me from the first page of Outliers and he hasn't let go. This is a book that addresses the key questions of what makes one person more successful than another, and the answers can be amazingly simple. To be sure, luck and innate talent have a lot to do with success, and he would completely agree. But while two different baseball players at the same position may have similar skills and talents to succeed enough to make the major leagues, what sets them apart from each other — what makes Derek Jeter a superstar and Orlando Cabrera merely a former Gold Glove winner — might surprise you.

Actually, my example, isn't fair: Gladwell doesn't examine those two. But chapter one is about the differences between the top Canadian junior hockey league players and the kids who played in high school but don't get much closer than enjoying the game on television. It's not simply about talent.

This book also makes me think about myself: what is it that has allowed me to succeed where others might have fallen short; why have I fallen short when others I believe I'm better than have advanced?

Gladwell has had his articles published in the New Yorker for years, and I think several of these essays appeared there first. He's also the author of the now famous Tipping Point and Blink. I've not read those others, but I definitely will now, having enjoyed Outliers so much. The book is thought-provoking while remaining a real page turner. It's like no other nonfiction work I've read all year. Check it out.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the book tip. You just bought (enticed me to purchase) my brother-in-law's gift.

This book is right up his alley. I'm not much of a non-fiction reader, so books with high praise usually sell themselves to me.

Matt Sinclair said...

Well, looky there! I'm a bookseller!!!

Thanks for the comment. You made my day. (Actually, it's second to seeing the photo of one of my beautiful daughters on the work Intranet site today, but it's still special.)