Outliers book review

Outliers book review
10 Point Rating9
9Overall Score

Date read: 05.02.2017. How strongly I recommend it: 9/10.

Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell on Amazon.

See my Kindle highlights here.


Readers will be individuals who are hungry for success. They will also have an open mind and be willing to learn about the backgrounds and surroundings of successful people, relying not only on the uninspired “single story” of success. This book challenges the reader with unique realities that may have escaped them in the reading of other books on this popular topic.


Go to your local bookstore. You will find a hundred success manuals, or biographies of famous people, or self-help books that promise to outline the six keys to great achievement. But rarely will you come across such an exhilarating read like Outliers. The author says, “My wish with Outliers is that it makes us understand how much of a group project success is.” He delves deep into the past of successful individuals, outlining the opportunities and legacies they were privy to, and reveals a shocking reality. The author continues: “We’ve been far too focused on the individual—on describing the characteristics and habits and personality traits of those who get furthest ahead in the world. And that’s the problem because in order to understand outliers I think you have to look around them—at their culture and community and family and generation. We’ve been looking at tall trees, and I think we should have been looking at the forest.”


While reading, I became so enthralled with the stories that, at times, I overlooked the overarching point. Each narrative was as fascinating as it was brilliant. But so deep down the rabbit hole I went that I sometimes lost sight of the horizon. I mention “overlooking the overarching point” and “losing sight of the horizon” because the author’s storytelling style tended to delve so deep (and perhaps become a little bit cluttered) with hopes to unearth a deeper truth. In retrospect, I am compelled to admit the clarity of this book’s message. The author masterfully articulates stories of success through detailed narrative. “You’ll meet more people in Outliers than in my previous two books,” the author admits. These stories coupled with the author’s typical aptitude for research and the final outcome is a broad look at “outliers” and the unique atmosphere that kindled the success that they found. “In examining the lives of the remarkable among us—the skilled, the talented, and the driven—I will argue that there is something profoundly wrong with the way we make sense of success.”


This book was not what I expected. I always appreciate literary surprises like this. Typically, books addressing success tend to be a bit dry. They are generally motivational and straightforward. Not so with this book. The storytelling style was unique and inspiring. Though I felt that the message clarity was veiled at times (as I mentioned above), the deeper truths that were unearthed were easy to accept after coming full circle through the narrative. Apart from the author’s creative storytelling ability, the content was also quite unique and compelling. The author says, “Each of us has his or her own distinct personality. But overlaid on top of that are tendencies and assumptions and reflexes handed down to us by the history of the community we grew up in, and those differences are extraordinarily specific.” The creative examples that the author used to make this point were both eye-opening and fresh.


This book was written very well. It is easy to see the many hours (10,000?) that the author has spent to perfect his craft. He worked for the Washington Post and the New Yorker, amongst other notable agencies. It’s not that this book is filled with difficult text or verbose depictions (something I typically enjoy), but the language selection permeated with new ideas and a broad vocabulary. Weaving through the intricacies of personal stories, the author mined out marvelous revelations about the true nature of success.


After finishing this book, I am left with a complicated impression. I find myself asking not only “what is success?” but also, “is success attainable for the common man?” The author points to both opportunity and legacy as the main causes of success. Sometimes it’s just pure luck. Again, this is not your typical book. I am challenged to harness every opportunity that comes my way, but I also realize that not every individual experiences that same potential for success. This is a little bit frustrating for me—though I agree with the reality. Still, I am intrigued by these types of success stories and pray that God would open doors to me that no man can shut.


I give Outliers a 9/10.

David Joannes
Founder/President at Within Reach Global
David Joannes is the co-founder and president of Within Reach Global, Inc, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.
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