I wrote in my review of What the Dog Saw that Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite non-fiction writers and probably the best non-fiction writers I’ve ever read. This book further shows why Gladwell is the best person writing non-fiction in the world.
Outliers is another full book by Gladwell focusing on one subject. While the subtitle of the book is The Story of Success, this is a fairly minor point as it pertains to the book as a whole. The early parts of the book deal with several very successful people throughout the world. It begins by discussing hockey and soccer players and some of the factors that may lead to their success in their field. While we may originally think that these people may have natural talent, or maybe they just worked harder, Gladwell looks at something that most people never think about, when they were born.
Psychology studies have shown that for many athletes, the date for the age cutoff has a large effect on which people succeed in that sport. For example, in Canada the cutoff date for joining youth hockey is January 1, you have to be 10 years old by that date to join. The child who turns 10 on January 2 has another year before he is able to join. While 11 months of growth might not be much when you’re in your 20’s, when you’re 10 those 11 months are a huge difference.
This is just one example where Gladwell shows that the situation that you find yourself in has a larger effect on your success than anyone ever thinks about. He uses different examples relating to the time of the year athlete’s were born, the era that different lawyers were born, how your culture can affect the way you relate to superiors, and other fun topics.
I have a BA in Psychology, and I’ve heard of several of the studies that Gladwell uses to support his arguments throughout the book. Gladwell’s gift is to write about complicated scientific and psychological topics in a way that makes them easy to understand. He also focuses on the individual people within the stories that he talks about and makes you appreciate their stories.
Gladwell is a wonderful writer who focuses on topics that most people never consider, his books are all wonderful and I suggest them to anyone who ever wants to know more about how the world works.