If you want a nice beach read (in November) that’s filled with light anecdotes, lots of “truthiness” and Wikipedia-based references, then I highly recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s new Outliers: The Story of Success. In it, you’ll learn such bold proclamations as:

7 Comments to
Gladwell’s Outliers is an Outlier Itself

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  1. Mr Gladwell seems to have latched onto a successful formula for ‘pop’ psychology. I suppose in that sense he is to be congratulated because he exemplifies Vygotsky’s notion of the zone of proximal development. In other words if you are new to the topics he reports on then he provides a useful bridge to deeper exploration. His work should be read as ‘journalistic’ rather than in any academic sense of ‘contribution to knowledge’. For more original and erudite offerings readers should dip into Howard Gardner’s work – Frames of Mind

  2. It’s really nice to hear you discuss his views on gender equality. It’s disappointing to hear that he doesn’t seem to think it exists, when I’ve heard him discuss how his ideas apply to racism.

  3. @Robinson — Agreed. He’s like a very popular intro to psychology professor at the local college — full of charisma, personality and spunk. And perhaps in doing so, sparking a few people to dig deeper on these topics. But I think many authors find it frustrating, given they’ve said the same things years earlier with less attention.

    @Jeanne Li — I don’t know that he doesn’t know it exists, but if you judged by the content of the book alone, he doesn’t seem to acknowledge it or the fact that women’s stories may be very different than the men he highlights throughout the book.

  4. This is very interesting; I’ll have to take a look at the other book you mentioned, the Colvin one. I was always one of the kids in school who learned anything by being in close proximity to it, and I wish I had been told that what is rewarded in life is not intelligence but bullheadedness. Really, success is just getting up one more time than you’re knocked down.

    I would also like to see a book like this that does focus on gender stuff; I’ve found that the “spunky, plucky genius” meme that these books promote simply doesn’t work for women. It gets met with more hostility, outright sabotage, or clumsy passes than respect for gutsiness or admiration for pluck.

    As a result, I’ve found that, as with a lot of women, the only things I can become truly great at are things I do entirely myself, which is very tough for an extrovert like myself — and in a world where collaboration is increasingly important, it can be crippling.

  5. Gosh and I thought i was just being a grouch… as there are several other gaps in his “model” too. The focus on men-related examples is such a throw-back. In this era when so much depends on how well we collaborate his topic also seems so 1980s.

  6. Malcolm Gladwell, though he lacks the published research that many of his peers rely on, offers applicable information for everyone. He may not focus on gender-related issues, or even on many situations involving women, but his ideas on quick thinking and the ways in which to maximize success are applicable to everyone. I find it refreshing that his books are entertaining and applicable. He goes deeper than most “pop-psychologists” in that he does not provide some step by step program or guarantee that his ideas will work. He simply provides information in a logical manner with reasonable yet entertaining examples. His information is accessible and understandable to everyone, yet is still applicable even to those at the pinnacle of intelligence and success. I think this should be applauded.

  7. I tend to look to this new breed of pop psychology books to see whether they offer anything the last breed did not. To date, I haven’t really found the compelling drive behind them.

    Most people would look at a step by step program as something that goes “deeper” than simply providing well-known information couched in slightly different terms with different stories to illustrate that information, not the other way around.

  8. He may not focus on gender-related issues, or even on many situations involving women, but his ideas on quick thinking and the ways in which to maximize success are applicable to everyone.

    But the point people are saying — and we are people with experience — is that they aren’t, that there are differences that are far more than a little asterisk with “for the ladies, it’s a little teeny bit different” printed at the bottom of the page.

    From my own life and the lives of the other women I know — highly successful academic officials, doctorates, and lawyers — the game is radically different for us, and books like these that pretend it isn’t don’t do us much good at all.

    A book that can’t be applied even to the majority of its intended audience isn’t a very good book, and a writer who can’t write to the situation of over half of his intended readership isn’t a good writer. If it’s a book about maximizing success strategies for men, it should be labeled as such.

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