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Amazon Best of the Month, November 2008: Now that he's gotten us talking about the viral life of ideas and the power of
gut reactions, Malcolm Gladwell poses a more provocative question in Outliers: why do some people succeed, living
remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential? Challenging our cherished
belief of the "self-made man," he makes the democratic assertion that superstars don't arise out of nowhere, propelled
by genius and talent: "they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and
cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." Examining
the lives of outliers from Mozart to Bill Gates, he builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of
advantages, "some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky."
Outliers can be enjoyed for its bits of trivia, like why most pro hockey players were born in January, how many hours of
practice it takes to master a skill, why the descendents of Jewish immigrant garment workers became the most powerful
lawyers in New York, how a pilots' culture impacts their crash record, how a centuries-old culture of rice farming helps
Asian kids master math. But there's more to it than that. Throughout all of these examples--and in more that delve into
the social benefits of lighter skin color, and the reasons for school achievement gaps--Gladwell invites conversations
about the complex ways privilege manifests in our culture. He leaves us pondering the gifts of our own history, and how
the world could benefit if more of our kids were granted the opportunities to fulfill their remarkable potential. --Mari