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210 of 237 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Lot Like Gladwell's Other Books, February 12, 2009
This review is from: Outliers: The Story of Success (Hardcover)
Gladwell seems to have perfected a formula:
1. Latch onto a catchy concept.
2. Think of a great, catchy one- or two-word title.
3. Write a thin, small book.
4. Start your book with a decent analysis of some facts that support your catchy thesis, hook the reader, then let the book slide into a series of anecdotes and stories. Don't "prove" your thesis, just illustrate it.
5. Charge a lot for it (in both absolute dollars and cost-per-word).
6. Get a terrific, minimalist cover design.
7. Let the royalties and accolades roll in.

Each of Gladwell's three books ("Tipping Point," "Blink," and "Outliers") follows this formula. It's a proven winner, and at the end of this book, he goes into full rooting mode for another hit in his Acknowledgements: "[A colleague] and I have been two for two so far, and...here's hoping we go three for three." Wow. Let's just set up a toll-booth.

I don't agree with the five-star reviews. The book is just too thin, anecdotal, and un-analytical to be taken very seriously. On the cover flap, it says that "Tipping Point" changed the way we understand the world, "Blink" changed the way we think about thinking, and "Outliers" will transform the way we understand success. Uh, no. They are all decent books with provocative theses, but none has enough "there" there to change the way most people think about anything.

I also don't agree with the one-star reviews. Gladwell's topics are provocative, his books are easy reads (this one took me just a few hours on vacation, and I'm not that fast a reader), and the stories and anecdotes are interesting. I found myself pretty convinced that birthdates are important to hockey success (so he hooked me with the first part of the book), but each successive chapter became less fact-based and more story-based. That said, it's a nice easy read, and I learned a thing or two. His books are not worthless.

So I give it a nice easy 88-mph down the middle three stars. I must admit, I admire the success he has had with his formula. He makes it look pretty easy.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 16, 2009 11:07:26 AM PST
Koob Nevam says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Jan 20, 2010 12:51:42 PM PST
I mostly agree with you. Nevertheless, it is really intriguing how such a pseudo-scientific approach to logical conclusions can fascinate people who like Gladwell's writing.
If he is willing to write a story, then good. But his books sound like weak attempts at explaining patterns by few examples leading to preposterous abstractions. It sounds
incredibly weak when the author tries to rationalize cause-and-effect sequences in such a incompetent way.

Posted on Jan 15, 2011 12:14:05 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 15, 2011 12:15:58 PM PST
A. Scouras says:
I disagree strongly with your statement "The book is just too thin, anecdotal, and un-analytical to be taken very seriously." There are no fewer than TEN pages of notes on sources and references in the back of the book. Gladwell is building on the work of many people before him and providing the information you need to check his work; this is clearly NOT just a fluff piece.

From your fourth point above, I get the sense you're looking for proof in an area where there is none (statistics). There are only patterns and confidence levels. The book is entirely statistical analysis and logical inference (why do we see these statistical patterns? - oh, look, there's a cultural pattern, too). Gladwell has chosen the most-obvious outliers in his book, but I don't think that weakens his thesis at all. In the name of solid debate, I would love to see some counter-claims and statistics, but I don't think it's fair to dismiss his work without providing some of your own.

You must also realize that this book is not intended to be published in an academic journal, but to get the public at large to think about the roots of success. I think it's an important-enough work that I wish I could convince everybody to read it.

Another quote from your review:
"It's a proven winner, and at the end of this book, he goes into full rooting mode for another hit in his Acknowledgements: "[A colleague] and I have been two for two so far, and...here's hoping we go three for three." Wow. Let's just set up a toll-booth."

What author doesn't want his work to be important, influential, and otherwise successful? I think it speaks to Gladwell's intellectual honesty that he doesn't try to hide this fact. It's obvious that you're not happy with the price of the books; remember that you can always choose not to buy or recommend them. Personally, I thought it was was well worth the price (currently $15).

EDIT: Typo / grammar / formatting

Posted on Oct 31, 2013 11:21:21 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 31, 2013 11:31:03 AM PDT
CMOS says:
In other words, he's the Seth Godin of social philosophy. Find a formula that works, repurpose your content over and over into "new" books to keep the "franchise" rolling. Albeit, I am certain Gladwell's writing is far more interesting and varied than Godin's. Godin turned approximately 3 ideas (make yourself useful, collaborate in new ways using technology, and create an unforgettable name / angle) into 14 or 15 books... clearly Gladwell's books, while having some similar themes, do not follow the afore-mentioned pattern.

In general society is way to free in the way we throw around words like "genius" (e.g. "he's a genius with ____"), when referring to guys like Gladwell and Godin. Just as we're too free with the word "hero" these days. Just because someone joins the military and fights overseas, does not make them a hero. Just because someone joins the police force, does not make them a hero. Just because someone can score lots of points and earn millions doing it, does not make them a hero.

We're so hard up for "superlative personalities", that we invent them where they don't exist. I think a little bit of the Gladwell phenomenon comes from that. I would argue there are very few true geniuses living (in any field), and relatively few heroes (accepting that someone's "personal hero because they saved my life" is not the same thing as a person society views to be genuinely heroic). Gladwell's just a good author with some interesting ways of looking at things. That's all.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2014 4:49:46 AM PDT
Good2Go says:
I just had to laugh at your numbered points. You nailed it succinctly. That's exactly what he did.
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