Library Pick o' the Week: Outliers

This week's library summer reading pick: author Malcolm Gladwell

Starter Book: Outliers

Where does success come from?  Is it the result of an innate talent, or can anyone achieve success through hard work? Is it all about opportunity? Is it luck?

We all know at least one story of someone amazingly successful, and we might wonder how we can replicate that success.  How can we become the next Bill Gates, John Lennon, or Michael Jordan?  Is there something special those guys have that the rest of us don't? Should we give up now? Or should we put more pressure on ourselves? Is the only thing standing between us and major achievement a will to succeed?

As Malcolm Gladwell investigates in this compelling book, the answer isn't simple.  But it does make an intuitive sense.  As in his other fascinating books (Blink and What the Dog Saw are two of my favorite reads!), Outliers is an unexpected journey.  You travel along with Gladwell, an engaging and helpful narrator, from amateur hockey leagues, to plane mishaps, to rice paddies, and all along the way he unravels your pre-conceived notions about success, replacing them with ideas that are somehow obvious, but that are also controversial.

Outliers was published in 2008, so not only will it probably be easy to find at your local library, even its audiobook version -- read by the author himself -- will probably be a cinch to locate there as well.  I listened to this one in audiobook form and found myself rewinding to listen again, just to enjoy a particular description or moment of insight.

Gladwell has a way of telling true stories that makes them engaging and dramatic, but also really useful to apply to our own lives.  The lessons apparent in the diverse situations he writes about are ones that we can all internalize -- whether or not we're setting out to be the leader in our field.  His writing reveals great truths and everyday details about human nature, about various cultures, and about the way our minds work.  Gladwell has a quality of inquisitive delight  that is contagious, and you'll find yourself gladly following him to far-off continents and widely different occupations in order to be there when he solves the mystery of success.

Outliers is a great read for high school students, and it could be a life-saver to anyone dreading an assigned non-fiction read.  There is nothing boring or dry about this book -- you'll flip pages as if it were a novel! 

And the answer about success? Well, it is a mix of several important factors.  But by delving into this book,  you can get a sense of which of your own habits, opportunities, interests, and traits might be part of your own ticket to the successful life you want.