Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Book Review: Outliers

After finishing "The Shack," Dad traded with me for one of his books. One of my siblings has this one, but Dad can't remember who (probably Aaron, he says). But this particular copy came from Dad's law partner, Mike, who read it and loved it and gave it back. Now dad has read it and loved it and passed it to me... and I read it and... well, here's my review:
When my dad tells a story, he goes all out. Hands, facial expressions, body language, all mixed in with impressive rhetoric. It's a captivating experience. This book felt like my dad telling a story to me. The writing was absolutely captivating. I would call Gladwell a natural-born storyteller, but I know now from reading this book that nobody is a "natural-born" anything.

"Outliers" takes the stories of irregular people, events, and communities and explains them. Bill Gates, for example, wasn't born talking in C++ code. He is NOT a computer genius in the traditional sense of the word. He, like all the other outliers in the book, had an extraordinary mix of luck, circumstance, and 10,000 hours of practice to become what he is. There are many people who could have been Bill Gates if they had the same opportunities. I appreciate that Gladwell sees so much potential in the human race--unfortunately, much of it is wasted because of seemingly trivial things like being born in the wrong month or the wrong zip code.

In addition to the discussion of individual success, Gladwell discusses cultural differences that explain a range of behaviors from solving a math problem to landing (or crashing) airplanes. Suddenly I found myself humbled. When I was at BYU, I took a class called Multicultural Education. The class taught us that as teachers, we must not treat our students according simply to racial stereotypes, and then the professor went on to explain how our Asian students would think differently than our Mexican students, who would respond to authority differently than our black students. It seemed oxymoronic to me. If they wanted us to ignore the stereotypes, why were they telling us what they are? Reading Gladwell's thoughts and research on the topic has really opened my eyes to what my professor was trying to tell me. Multicultural Education means that as a teacher, you must recognize and take the idea of "cultural legacies" seriously. You can read more about what that means in the book :)

I HIGHLY recommend this book if you can get your hands on it. If you like listening to my dad tell stories, or if you've ever wondered why hockey players are all born in January, or if you've ever wanted to be as good as the Asain kids are in math, this is a must-read.

(Aimee, this is WAY better than "The Shack." Although if I know you, you could read both of these in a day and not even break a sweat :) What an inspiration to us all! I'm starting to wish I could read like that... I guess I could if I do it for 10,000 hours!--that's Gladwell's magic number)

Thanks Dad and Mike!

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5 Comments:

At February 18, 2009 10:01 PM , Blogger Katie said...

Sounds like a must read. Thank you for the write up.

 
At February 18, 2009 10:25 PM , Blogger Aaron and Emily said...

Aaron does have this one. He is trying to finish another book before he starts this one, and I don't want to read it before he does, since he got the book. So I am just eager beaver. But I didn't read your review yet because I was afraid it might give something away. Should I just read it?

 
At February 18, 2009 11:09 PM , Blogger Danielle said...

you can go ahead and read the review... it's really hard to have a "spoiler" for this book... and my review might leave you more confused than anything... just have Aaron hurry it up... it'd be fun to talk about with you :)

 
At February 19, 2009 9:37 AM , Blogger Aimee said...

This one has been on my list for a while - I've read and enjoyed others of Malcolm Gladwell's books. I'll have to try to move it up, but really I don't read as much as I used to, now that life and kids have a knack for getting in the way!

 
At February 19, 2009 5:05 PM , Blogger iMaLLheaRt said...

I must be an exception because I'm Asian and I stink at math! I still get confused with negatives and positives!

 

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