Thursday, April 22, 2010

Outliers

I just finished Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  Mary picked it for our neighborhood book club 2 months ago, and via a series of unlucky events, I managed to not get the book read on time.  Mary lent me her copy, and I just got around to it last night.

I was instantly hooked.  I read passages outloud to Greg.  I stayed up until 1 a.m. before I made myself put it down (which felt awesome when E woke up at 5:45).  Before going to sleep, Mr. Gladwell had me convinced that we cannot possibly send Ellie to kindergarten when she is 5 (since she has an August birthday), and should keep her back for a year, since the youngest children in their grade score 12 percentage points behind the oldest children, and are underrepresented in college by 11.6%.

Mr. Gladwell has some interesting suppositions about the reasons why people are "lucky" and successful.  Every conclusion he made is one I have heard before, but not collected together into his own theory of success.  I especially loved how he recognizes that cultural heritage plays a large role in success.  My favorite example is an explanation of why Asians typically out-perform English-speakers in Math.  It comes down to language.  English has a weird way of counting (e.g. eleven, twelve, thirteen); Asians say ten-one, ten-two, ten-three.  When English-speaking children learn to add, they have to translate thirty-seven plus twelve into numbers and then add, while Asian children add three-tens-seven plus ten-two.  Fractions are expressed in Chinese as "from five parts take three" where English-speakers say three-fifths.  So math skills may be related in part to grasping the concepts early on as a result of the language.  Interesting concept, eh?

The take-home message of the book for me is that uber-successful people have a combination of talent, preparation, hard work, AND come of age at the right time for their skill sets.  Gladwell places a lot of emphasis on being the right age at the right time.

An interesting read.  Great pick, Mary!  (Now I just have to remember to get your book back to you.)

5 comments:

Julie M said...

Thanks for the book review...I've now added it to the list of books I want to read!

Beth said...

I loved this book, I even got Gabe to read it. After he read it he was so happy that Beck's birthday is after the deadline and he will be the oldest in his class.

I have a late August birthday and was the youngest in my class and I think I turned out okay!

Glad you liked it!

Heather said...

You definitely turned out OK - you turned out awesome! And I am glad you do not have to worry about Beck. I probably will not worry about Ellie in a couple more days.... And we have 4.5 years to make the decision!

Renee said...

My dad read this book and loved it as well! I think he makes some very interesting points. Kylee is an August birthday and we sent her to Kindergarten when she was 5 - I hope she turns out okay! I am thinking this a must read for me...thanks for your views!

Tayler said...

My birthday is August 6th and Ellie's is August 4th. I turned out fine, in fact I am in the top percentage of my graduating class, and will graduate from high school with college credits. Ellie has my genes, I say put her in, and give her the advantage of the extra year after high school.

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