The Story of Success

Book - 2008 | First edition.
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Learn what sets high achievers apart -- from Bill Gates to the Beatles -- in this #1 bestseller from "a singular talent" ( New York Times Book Review ).

In this stunning book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?
His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Brilliant and entertaining, Outliers is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2008.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780316017923
Branch Call Number: 302.14 GLA
Characteristics: 309 pages ;,21 cm


From Library Staff

neko Aug 12, 2009

An excellent book about the hours that go into being exceptionally good at a skill.

10,000 hours is the practical difference between someone interested in playing the violin for example and the virtuoso soloist. Malcolm makes a compelling point how the very best have this edge at anything they... Read More »

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FPL_John Oct 05, 2020

I enjoy Malcom Gladwell's work because of his talent for making me see the world in a different way. He pulls together information to make you realize that although you thought you understood how something works, there is really more involved than you realized. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Sep 30, 2020

Outliers is a nonfiction book by Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell. Outliers is a book about the best, and how they became the best. He argues that these outliers are not only outliers because of their abilities but also because of how they were nurtured and the opportunities that they were presented. Gladwell includes many instances of anecdotal evidence from The Beatles to Bill Gates. The book is not very scientific but rather looks at trends by analyzing successful people. This book has also popularized the theory that it takes 10000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. Overall this book is highly interesting and an enjoyable read but it does lack scientific evidence to back it up. I would rate Outliers four out of five stars.
@Nessie of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

Jul 15, 2020

This is one of the most impactful books I've read recently. Gladwell presents us with a well-constructed and thought-provoking examination of the factors that lead to success, and also the dynamics that get in the way.

Feb 08, 2020

This book is very well researched. It teaches us how opportunity plays a critical role in the success of the individual.

A revealing quote:
"No successful person succeeds of their own efforts. They are products of their times, places, and environments."

Jan 13, 2020

Reading a Malcolm Gladwell book is like peeling the layers of an onion but without the tears. Layers and layers of thought. Always thought provoking.

Jan 10, 2020

Highly enjoyed this book.

Dec 29, 2019

Another book to make you see things differently. This time it is the concept of personal success which, if you believe the author’s research (and it makes sense), is due more to the good luck of timing, opportunity and cultural legacy (a new concept for me) than intelligence and ambition. It became more interesting the further I read and caused me to sit and think about the course of my own life. I think this could be a valuable book for anyone to read - maybe especially would-be parents.

Aug 28, 2019

Entertaining, but really uneven... The book is divided into two main parts. The first one is called Opportunity and is focused on explaining the success of individual outliers. The second part called Legacy is focused on the success or failure of various cultures.

While the first part, Opportunity, is more entertaining, it is the weaker of the two. Gladwell makes such an effort to explain out the outliers as to render them entirely mainstream that he forgets that they are outliers. He explains so much by what year they were born. To quote him: “For a young would be lawyer, being born in the early 1930s was a magic time, just as being born in 1955 was for software programmer, or being born in 1835 was for an entrepreneur.” His logic is that about 20 to 30 years after those respective dates hostile merger and acquisition became prevalent on Wall Street, the computer revolution took off, and the industrial revolution in the U.S. really got going, respectively. Thus, in his views outliers are no more than a product of their time. However, this argument does not look at the other side. For instance, Bill Gates was not just a product of the computer revolution. He was a key individual that actually created the computer revolution. Without Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and very few others, there was no computer revolution. This same logic can be advanced with the key entrepreneurs during the industrial revolution or lawyers during the wave of hostile takeovers. These individuals just like Bill Gates were not just passive agent surfing the wave of their respective time. They were the respective storms that created the waves.

To add further relativism to the determinism of year of birth, during the mid 1930s, 15 million were born (that makes for a lot of potential lawyers). Between 1953 and 1956, over 16 million were born. That makes for a bunch of prospective computer geeks. In other words, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were still one in a million individual (actually one in several millions).

The second part on Legacy is on far stronger ground. Two chapters really stand out. One of them explains why South Korean Airline had the worst record in plane crash because of a cultural respect for authority (the captain reigns supreme and can’t be corrected even if he is exhausted and ready to fly a plane into a mountain). The other chapter explains the Asian cultural superiority in k-12 achievement in mathematics (a superior language structure to understand math operation logically; a 240 day school year vs. 180 in the US; and a culture of grit and perseverance).


Malcom Gladwell pens a really fascinating non-fiction book that examines what factors contribute to an individual’s success. While I had originally believed that success comes from only a person’s work ethic, I soon realized how multi-faceted achievement truly is. He makes some really strong arguments and his observations are incredibly insightful and informative. I think that the way in which I looked at successful versus struggling individuals changed drastically from the book. I have to recommend this book to others as it was interesting and eye-opening. Emily, grade 12, of the Yorba Linda Teen Book Bloggers

Aug 07, 2019

The audiobook is read by the author, who reads it quite well, if a bit too slow (I listened on a Playaway device and could increase the speed slightly).
The work itself is terrific, especially how cultural legacies create the inequalities that matter and that current policies do not address them.
Its sad about the culture into which this book was released is one that can have it produced, but that also it just gets praised and, well, ignored, or at least not acted upon.

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Oct 17, 2018

"... the Beatles didn't recoil in horror when they were told they had to play eight hours a night, seven days a week [for early gigs in Germany]. They jumped at the chance. Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you [successful] ...". (p. 150)

Dec 15, 2011

To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success – the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history – with a society that provides opportunities for all.

Nov 05, 2009

... and no one - not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses - ever makes it alone.

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Aug 16, 2018

hawkinsc thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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Oct 17, 2018

"... We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally [into existence] ... But that's the wrong lesson. ... To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success ... with a society that provides opportunities for all. ... The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all." (p. 268, 285)


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