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Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: A Review by Dr. Geoffrey Mountvarner

March 18, 2013

Malcolm Gladwell has won numerous awards for his writing, including a National Magazine Award in 1999 for his article on Ron Popeil. Gladwell has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. He has authored numerous books, including The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, published in 2000; and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, which came out in 2005. His most recent books are Outliers: The Story of Success, released in 2008; and a collection of short stories from The New Yorker called What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, published in 2009.

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell pursues the notion of success. He explores the question of why some people succeed in life, while others fail to reach their maximum potential. Asserting that the cause of success has to do with receiving a series of advantages, he takes particular cases of successful people, whom he calls “outliers,” taken from the term for people or things which lie outside of common experience. These include various examples, from Bill Gates to the Beatles. Even Mozart received unfair advantages, according to Gladwell.

The various advantages that Gladwell examines include race, cultural background, and the opportunity to hone a skill. His point is that individual merit alone does not make a person successful. Outstanding fame and fortune for the individual come as the result of his entire history, including where he is born, in what culture he grows up, and in what century he lives.

Uploaded by pennalumni on Feb 4, 2009

The idea for the book Outliers came to Malcolm Gladwell out of his frustration with the way our culture understands and explains success and successful people. Unlike the vast majority of people, he found himself more interested with the cultures and families of successful people than those people as individuals. His book is anything but impersonal, however. He ends with the story of his grandmother in rural Jamaica, following the path from her life to his successful career as a writer.

About the author: Dr. Geoffrey Mountvarner, author of Don’t Even Smile: The Other Side of Sexual Harassment, graduated from the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health. In 2008, he faced a false accusation of sexual harassment from a former staff member. In his book, he details the experience he had and paints a picture of a lesser-publicized figure in these sexual harassment cases: the accused.

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