Review: Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell


Why do I keep buying books like this?  They are like low quality chocolate.  You start off scoffing it down, and end it up with a harsh, gritty taste in your mouth, and a feeling of self disgust.  I think the first book I read in this genre was Freakanomics.  All books like Freakanomics are driven by the same principle: everything that they touch can be explained by a single idea.  Never mind that they only touch a few selected things.  Really these books are like the non-fiction (let’s use that term loosely) version of The Da Vinci Code, Holy Blood, Holy Grail or the Illuminati.  Nothing is explained by a single idea (this is my single idea).  Outliers would have been much better as a series of essays pointing out interesting things.  As one idea about success and the “so-called” genius it is sort of depressing without necessarily being true.  Actually, the book tells us, there aren’t genius’, there are people in fortunate contexts who work very, very hard.  Sometimes our culture helps us and sometimes it gets in the way.  The good news and the bad news is that we can all and we all can’t be successful.  If we can all work very, very, very hard for a very long time we can be successful.  For example, if you come from a historically brutalised group who now does badly on tests at school, you can submit your child to the regime of special schools that make a narrow curriculum and long hours its educational theory and your child will do well on tests.  And so it goes.  The powerful forces of racist assimilation dressed up in yet another form.  Your children are failing our system.  What you need is even more of our system to be successful in our system.  In the end we will all be the same.  Work makes us free.

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