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Outliers: The Story of Success

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

80 out of 84 people found this review helpful.

Hard work and emotional intelligence

I've always been curious about the archetypal "overachieving" type; the person with a 4.0 GPA, supplemented with a vast resume of extracurriculars and seemingly guaranteed placement at some selective, elite institution. They seem to effortlessly master their studies, cr...
I've always been curious about the archetypal "overachieving" type; the person with a 4.0 GPA, supplemented with a vast resume of extracurriculars and seemingly guaranteed placement at some selective, elite institution. They seem to effortlessly master their studies, creating a very bothersome imposition in the back of my mind that made me feel inadequate. For awhile, I felt that there was something innate these certain individuals possessed, hardening my fatalistic perspective about the world and making me question my own self-worth.

Gladwell essentially put everything into perspective for me. People aren't just born "with it." The typical stories describing the ascent to success by prominent individuals oftentimes, if not always, obscure the social, cultural, economic, institutional and fortuitous elements that allow that person to rise in the first place. This book, replete with credible substantiations, investigates the lives of many successful people, like Bill Gates and Joe Flom, and show how particular environmental factors and fortunate circumstances led to the realization of these individuals' potential. The story of success is always more complex than the simple tales of "rags to riches." This book comprehensively examines not just individuals, but systems (like public education), and stereotypes (such as Asians being good at math) to provide the reader with a deeper understanding of what provides the proper foundation for high achievement.

Though, let me be clear: this book does *NOT* suggest that sheer hard work is somehow irrelevant, or weakly relevant (i.e. "it's all luck"), in one's pursuit of success. To the contrary, this book emphatically illustrates how crucial hard work is to the fulfillment of success. The book, however, indicates that hard work goes hand-in-hand with opportunity. Your intellectual potential might have you be a great computer programmer, mathematician, or businessman. Unfortunately, it might very well go to waste without the resources needed to foster the development of such potential. There's no point in having a warehouse of hardy seeds without the fertile soil to plant them in.

This book has inspired me to push onward with my studies, to work incredibly hard towards mastery of subject material and to seek opportunity and claim it upon arrival. Highly recommended book!

Another on the subject I tore through recently and recommend strongly in addition to Gladwell's book, because it's great and it includes an online test of your emotional intelligence is, Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

posted by Oscar_Aguilar on June 19, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

21 out of 47 people found this review helpful.

His weakest book yet...

I like Malcolm Gladwell BUT I think this is his weekest book yet. I thought his previous books were thought provoking, but this one just didn't do it for me. The more I read his work, the more he tries to peg people in a particular hole to fit his theories. If you are n...
I like Malcolm Gladwell BUT I think this is his weekest book yet. I thought his previous books were thought provoking, but this one just didn't do it for me. The more I read his work, the more he tries to peg people in a particular hole to fit his theories. If you are not one to think for yourself this maybe the book for you.

posted by 180177 on November 20, 2008

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  • Posted June 19, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Hard work and emotional intelligence

    I've always been curious about the archetypal "overachieving" type; the person with a 4.0 GPA, supplemented with a vast resume of extracurriculars and seemingly guaranteed placement at some selective, elite institution. They seem to effortlessly master their studies, creating a very bothersome imposition in the back of my mind that made me feel inadequate. For awhile, I felt that there was something innate these certain individuals possessed, hardening my fatalistic perspective about the world and making me question my own self-worth.

    Gladwell essentially put everything into perspective for me. People aren't just born "with it." The typical stories describing the ascent to success by prominent individuals oftentimes, if not always, obscure the social, cultural, economic, institutional and fortuitous elements that allow that person to rise in the first place. This book, replete with credible substantiations, investigates the lives of many successful people, like Bill Gates and Joe Flom, and show how particular environmental factors and fortunate circumstances led to the realization of these individuals' potential. The story of success is always more complex than the simple tales of "rags to riches." This book comprehensively examines not just individuals, but systems (like public education), and stereotypes (such as Asians being good at math) to provide the reader with a deeper understanding of what provides the proper foundation for high achievement.

    Though, let me be clear: this book does *NOT* suggest that sheer hard work is somehow irrelevant, or weakly relevant (i.e. "it's all luck"), in one's pursuit of success. To the contrary, this book emphatically illustrates how crucial hard work is to the fulfillment of success. The book, however, indicates that hard work goes hand-in-hand with opportunity. Your intellectual potential might have you be a great computer programmer, mathematician, or businessman. Unfortunately, it might very well go to waste without the resources needed to foster the development of such potential. There's no point in having a warehouse of hardy seeds without the fertile soil to plant them in.

    This book has inspired me to push onward with my studies, to work incredibly hard towards mastery of subject material and to seek opportunity and claim it upon arrival. Highly recommended book!

    Another on the subject I tore through recently and recommend strongly in addition to Gladwell's book, because it's great and it includes an online test of your emotional intelligence is, Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

    80 out of 84 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 29, 2008

    A Further Exlanation

    It's true, the primary premise of Gladwell's Outliers is that success is not about what we are told its about. It¿s also true that this idea isn't anything new. But if you're on the fence about buying this one, you should consider a few other truths about the work. <BR/><BR/>The "successful" people that Gladwell is referring to in Outliers are not the garden variety "he's a successful dentist" types. An Outlier is not someone who made something of themselves in the sense that they earn above average income, drive high-line cars, and make six or seven figures. Nor is he referring to wealth alone as a measure of success (J. Robert Oppenheimer is one of his Outliers). He is talking about real - out there on the edge alone - success. The Beatles kind of success, Bill Gates kind of success, so take with a grain of salt reviews that bash The book for being unoriginal or for not providing useful information on "how to" become successful. <BR/><BR/>Clarification: Reading Outliers wont help you become an outlier anymore than reading Blink will make you a better thin slicer - but his section on scholastic sports and "gifted" classes in grade school may make you hold your kid back a year to dramatically change their lives in a positive way.<BR/><BR/>What this book is useful for is its further explanation and revelation of the true cause of something (extreme success in this case) and a pattern that has developed to explain it that has nothing to do with reality. Gladwell's research is as solid as ever; interesting as ever; and I recommend the book as worth the purchase price. I couldn't put it down, I took notes, underlined passages, then read it again; all without a twinge of buyer¿s remorse.

    28 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2008

    His weakest book yet...

    I like Malcolm Gladwell BUT I think this is his weekest book yet. I thought his previous books were thought provoking, but this one just didn't do it for me. The more I read his work, the more he tries to peg people in a particular hole to fit his theories. If you are not one to think for yourself this maybe the book for you.

    21 out of 47 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2010

    What Price Success?

    All of Gladwell's books have been fascinating reads! This book is making me think about my own growing up years/culture/class background, and the impact on my life decisions. It makes me think about decisions I've made regarding my children, and how my husband and I bring our different life stories to bear on this. Gladwell has a way of presenting social psychology through a very engaging format. The main thesis of this book is that success is an accumulation of advantages, coupled with the "10,000 hour rule." The book does get to be repetitive, but is entertaining enough to make it feel worth it. I didn't alway agree with his perspective, however. An example is in presenting the KIPP schools, and the role of the extensive hours devoted to studies as a meaure of the success of the students. What bothered me about this is that it does not take into consideration the cultural context of the students, and whether this success comes at too great a cost. I would have liked to see the "you can be successful if you put in 10,000 hours" tempered by also raising the question of whether the "success" is really worth it and what such success means in terms of one's identity, value system, or other lost opportunities.

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 10, 2010

    Interesting but author promotes redistribution of wealth

    Gladwell presents very interesting and insightful information in the first few chapters which were quite interesting. However, as I read further, it was increasingly evident Gladwell has an obvious left wing agenda which contaminates some of his very interesting findings. It was especially evident when he mentioned a study which showed black graduates of Michigan Law School ,despite having much lower grades in colleges and LSAT scores are as successful as their white fellow graduates. His premise is there is a threshold of talent or IQ which must be met to be at the top of a chosen field or profession. He rightfully states how much time those who meet the this threshold practice or study is as important as natural talent or IQ. He then promotes the idea that a school like Harvard should set a threshold and then choose who is admitted by a lottery. But there are well known problems with this approach. To meet standards of political correctness, there have numerous cases where the threshold was set artificially or ridiculously low to ensure the "correct" percentages of each race enters the school or the job in question. In addition, how could anyone guarantee the "lottery" is a real lottery. The study he sites uses some criteria which are very subjective. I liked his book until I realized he is an Obama type, who is bright, convincing but in the end has an agenda of redistribution of income ,power, prestige etc. Sorry Malcolm I should have left the book in B&N when I saw you are a staff writer for the New Yorker.

    8 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Love this Book

    I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell. I actually started with this book and then read the rest of his previous works. This is a fantastic read. I was a psychology major so it was very relevant to what I had studied as well as everyday life. Outliers examines how those individuals who achieved success were a product of their environments and life circumstances. On the one hand it's disappointing to think that hard work isn't enough but on the other hand I like the idea that sometimes if someone fails to succeed it isn't because they didn't work hard enough or that they weren't qualified, it might just be a product of their circumstances. I love the way Gladwell uses scientific experiments to justify his claims. It gives more validity to the book than if it were just his ideas.

    Because of this book I have a more positive outlook on things. I've been inspired to find my strengths in the cards that life has dealt me and to focus on those strengths rather than waste time on ambitions that may never be realized.

    If only I were born in a recession! and not trying to succeed at a career in one ;)

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 24, 2008

    Awesome!!!

    I have not even finished the book, but I am so captivated that I can hardly put it down. I tell everyone I know what a great book it is because I find it useful on so many levels. It makes me think of both my personal professional growth and my parenting skills, and it gives me ideas for ways to improve upon both of them. <BR/><BR/>I am always impressed by Gladwell's ability to break down what appears to be a simple concept into different equally important layers that I never would have considered. The reasearch is impeccable, and the conclusions make practical, realistic sense. If you are someone who associates and/or works with people of varied socioeconomic backgrounds, the evidence of Gladwell's conclusions are obvious. <BR/><BR/>I absolutely recommend this book to everyone. It is AWESOME!!!

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting Theories Of Success

    In Outliers, The Story Of Success, Malcolm Gladwell shows research that puts forward the theory that success is a combination of factors. While intelligence plays a large part, so do birth order, cultural assumptions, and above all hard work. Individuals must have the ability to see opportunities and then have the skills to take advantage of them.

    One of the earliest chapters focuses on professional hockey players. They are overwhelmingly born in the first three months of the year. Inexplicable coincidence? No, more likely that this phenomenon is the result of age cutoffs in sports teams, so that those born in January, February and March are usually the oldest on their teams, so more developed and more likely to be noticed. Those noticed are picked for more advanced teams where they get more training, better coaching and more practice and playing time, all of which give them the opportunity to become better players than those who are left on their first skill level teams.

    This plays out over and over again when trends are seen. The dot-com millionaires? Almost all were born from 1952-1955, when the computer was first introduced to the public, and kids in schools could get hours upon hours of programming time. Successful musicians? Most practice hundreds more hours than those who just never quite make it to the top. Both groups are talented, but one group takes advantage of opportunities and hard work to develop that talent.

    In one study, bright children in California were tested and tracked for over forty years. Although all started in the brightest groups, by adulthood they had fallen into the superstars, the average and those who didn't quite make it. Luck of the draw? That assumption can be challenged when the facts show that those in the bottom group almost overwhelmingly had parents who were uninvolved in their lives and who didn't help their children focus and refine their talents. Parenting styles seem to make a big difference.

    Gladwell has written a thought-provoking book. His thesis can be summed up in this quote: "...success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed. Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities--and who have the strength and presence of mind to seize them. ...To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success--the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history--with a society that provides opportunities for all." This book is recommended for readers that are interested in learning how the world works and how we might improve it.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Extremely insightful

    I really enjoyed this book. It points out the fallacy of "talent" and really explains what results in success versus failure. I highly recommend this book (and I don't usually do that).

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2011

    Senior English Letter to the Author... cont.

    I also found the data employed in this chapter to be misleading. Considering how few people have the IQs you reference, it is essentially impossible to get enough data to make reliable conclusions. Just because factors like emotional intelligence matter should not discount the value of actual or intellectual intelligence. In fact, if IQ is such a crude measurement system (which most people realize), then why use it at all to "prove" your theory? The idea that Einstein's level of intelligence was not that important to his success simply disregards reality. Unfortunately, this chapter, with its labored attempts to prove that we all have what it takes - that the smart kids are no better - seems to me like a bit of sophistry that once again makes people feel better about themselves and has undoubtedly resulted in the widespread embrace of this book in our school system that is soft and overly-sensitive when it comes to success and failure.

    The ideas explained in "The Matthew Effect" did seem to hold some water, however, and I could relate. My school district has an enrichment program that tests students to see if they are eligible in the early years of elementary school. Once in the program, you basically do not leave. Not that we are in high school, it is very clear that many of the students in the program do not belong there. At the time we were tested, age certainly made a difference. In fact, for the first several years of the program, I remember that all of the students in it (myself included) were among the oldest in their respective grades. This was probably the best chapter in the book, as you backed up your claims very well. While reading it, I questioned whether I still belong in the enrichment program many times. It was an interesting point to make, and it did give me a bit of a new perspective.

    Despite the aspects of the book I did not like, I do appreciate that you attempt to answer the question of success. Frankly, I feel that it is unanswerable. It certainly is a fascinating topic.

    Sincerely,
    Michael Gildin

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2011

    Senior English Letter to the Author

    Mr. Gladwell,
    My Senior English class has just recently read your book Outliers. The focus of our class and its curriculum is to pursue an essential question and apply it to our studies to give us greater perspective. The particular question my class must evaluate throughout the semester is "to what extent do time and place define a person?" Your book has been an excellent choice for the class, as it reflects upon the themes of time and place quite often. Throughout the book, you elaborate upon the idea that talent is not necessarily an innate quality in and of itself. Instead, you stress that often luck is a factor, mainly in the form of a person's timing or the culture they come from. Outliers are more often than not the result of elements that are out of their control, as you explain.

    One chapter that stood out to me was "The 10,000-Hour Rule." This chapter highlighted the necessity of hard work in achieving success, but it was interesting and surprising that you assigned a specific number to it. The examples of Bill Gates and the Beatles explained your point. For Bill Gates, in particular, the themes of time and place fit very well. He was born at such a time that computers were just becoming more of a present force when Gates reached maturity. Random events allowed him to have essentially uninterrupted access to high-end technology, which was further made possible by the lack of large-scale computer fluency during this time. Were Gates born at a different time or place, he would not have had access to all of these tools and advantages that allowed him to complete his 10,000 hours (even though the explanations provided did seem a bit revisionist). Practice does make perfect, I guess.

    I had a difficult time connecting with the chapter "Marita's Bargain." It seemed as though the stress Marita faced was being pushed as a positive. For disadvantaged students such as her, I do agree that the KIPP schools do a great job of making them rise above their socio-economic situations. However, do you feel that this sufficiently addresses the problem? To me, it seems more like a band-aid. I feel that a lot of the point of this chapter was strained in order to get across to us that underprivileged children are still smart. Which is not to say that isn't true - it is just overstated in this chapter. I also find it curious that in the case of children like Marita, time and place suddenly does not matter. How is she able to overcome her disadvantages and inherent "bad luck" so easily? You offer a rather politically correct explanation, something that people in our time (especially those higher on the socioeconomic ladder) love to hear in order to feel better about themselves. I am a huge supporter of education and equal opportunity for everyone, but even I thought this chapter felt a little forced.

    I also found myself disagreeing with the ideas presented in the chapter on IQ. Your essential argument is that intelligence is not really a factor in success beyond a certain point, and in fact that it is not really a deciding factor at all. The example of Christopher Langan's genius-level IQ but strangely "unsuccessful" life is interesting, but it is merely an anecdote that I do not believe can be the basis for the sweeping generalities you make. The chapter seemed guilty of forcibly adapting the theory once the necessary outlier had been found. (Cont. in next review)

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2009

    Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers

    An outlier is one who has reached achievement in a way that was given as only a chance for them to take. Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, is a captivating written work by involving many real life situations. Not only does it involve Gladwell's own inferences on the success of life, but with the aid of real scenarios that help prove his point. The initial reaction to the word, outlier is not that of Gladwell's. Throughout the book, the meaning of the word outlier to Gladwell, is expressed as people who are those who have been given opportunities, and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.
    The book is a guideline and proof of how success is reached. The theme guides Gladwell into motivating subject. He starts with the point that professional athletes are where they are at because of when their birthday falls in the year. The ones with birthdays at the beginning of the year have an advantage with size and therefore more practice times and better teams are given to them from the initiation. Gladwell believes that, "Success is the result of what sociologists like to call accumulative advantage" (30 Gladwell). With charts of the professional athletes birthdates, he proves his point.
    Gladwell continues the idea by explaining that success is not just handed to individuals. A computer programmer doesn't just already have the knowledge of how to create life long used software from the day they were born. The practice and hard work, is requisite to acquire the skill. From this Gladwell, comes up with the ten thousand hours rule. After questioning many of today's profitable people, one being Bill Gates, Gladwell finds out that all of those people practiced what had made them who they are today for at least ten thousand hours, "The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert in anything" (40 Gladwell).
    This book wasn't just loaded with interesting facts. With encouraging advice the book, provided examples and research of ways that accomplishments can be reached. By starting out in life with the highest IQ, isn't always the lead way to getting ahead. Gladwell talked about studies done on those who started life with the higher intelligence and ended up nowhere.
    Gladwell almost gives a sense of hope for those who are average in intelligence. That is why I recommend this book; because of Gladwell's reasoning that success comes from opportunity, excess of hard work, some start of intelligence not necessarily the highest, and lastly support. "Successful people don't do it alone. Where they come from matters. They're products of particular places and environments" (119 Gladwell). By reading this, it made me enjoy the book, and words from Gladwell. I agreed with his theories at all times. The matters that he had brought up, I had never thought about before. From this it gave me a new view of success and was encouragement for myself to work for it in my own life. With the sense of what it takes for an accomplishment, it makes the reader want to learn more of how to do it and that they aren't as far away from it as they might have thought. For that reason, is why all readers should read this book, because it puts a true meaning on life and where one can lead their own path into the future.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2009

    Excuse me!

    The whole premise is that if you're not born at the precise "right" moment you will not be sucessful. This is a great book for those losers in life who need an excuse for not being successful! He makes some interesting arguments but I don't buy into his premise.

    3 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Read

    very thought provoking...makes you look at any situation or person in a different light. He gets a little long winded with some of his stories and examples. At times I found myself skipping ahead thinking "ok, I get it already". I find myself using the phrase "outliers" in general conversation...so it definately has a "sticky" factor. I recommend all of his books. I got these on audio for my weekly road trips. I especially like hearing them in the writers voice.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2009

    Outliers is a Scope to a New Outlook

    First off, Outliers is a great read and I think everyone from all backgrounds or professions should read it. It's more of one of those "universal" books.

    The first thing I noticed about the book is that Gladwell REALLY did his research here. It began to seem as though the book were more about statistics and reviews rather than his own opinions, however maybe I'm wrong and I was missing the big picture. The extensive amount of quotes baffles me and they all flow nicely. I really liked how Gladwell makes everything into lament's terms no matter how complicated it may be, and then he reviews over what is happening as he makes his stories out of quotes and statistics.

    Overall, great read and an interesting book and I hope more people get a hold of it.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 18, 2012

    This is an amazing, and very interesting book. I had to read it

    This is an amazing, and very interesting book. I had to read it for one of my college classes, and I had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, and everyone I've met who's read this book is impressed. It's worth reading. :)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2012

    Great Book

    What makes the best and brightest of people become successful? Outliers: The Story of Success is one of the most intriguing and eye opening books I have read in quite some time. Malcolm Gladwell attempts to dissect the reason behind success in multiple real life situations. I found myself amazed at some of the things I read and have a new definition of what success really is in my own mind. This book will appeal any age group as there is much to learn through stories of others. Gladwell made it clear to me that people are not born “with it.” Could it be possible that the time of year that someone is born has a direct correlation to the best hockey players in the world? The story of success is always more complex than the simple tales of "rags to riches." Not only does this book focus on individuals but stereotypes being answered such as Asians being good at math. Have you ever thought of what makes the people around you more successful? With lots of research and thoughtful thinking Gladwell has been able to dig deep and bring answers to these questions through this interesting book. Must read

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    read this book its food 4 thought and compelling

    if u jus starting a family or have children this is the book 4 u this book is telling u how2 b successful and when u read it u will kno its not sun over the night thing it takes work and the younger u start the more likely u will be successful parents read this book and start ur kids on the path 2 success.

    2 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    This isn't a new story for scholars, but it is a great presentation of it.

    There is plenty of research in the field of resiliency that tells us that children who survive and thrive despite extraordinary difficulties do so because of some element in their external environment that worked in their favor. The disappointment: super heroes they are not. The good news: average people can step in and make a difference. Very good news indeed. While scholars might not find much meat to chew on here, anyone outside the field will love it. And it reinforces my belief that all scholarly topics should be edited by a top journalist - hate to say it (sorry to my people!) but for enjoyment's sake, I much prefer reading a journalist's book on a scholarly topic than a academic's book. Gladwell's a great writer, and unless this is your field, you're not only going to enjoy reading the book, you'll learn a lot too!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2009

    An Awesome Read

    As an educator of gifted students, I found this book an interesting and enlightening read. This book should be included on every college's freshman reading list. An awesome read for every student, educator, and professional!

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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