I am not much of a book reader but I like a good book when I see one and will mostly end up buying it... Amazon must have become rich of the number of books I've been buying from them the last 10 years... and I never got a descent discount or extra bonus, damn them... Anyways, I also never managed to read a book thru more than, say, 10%, and for quite a few among them I've never even gotten thru the preface part... never mind.
Not this one. I knew Gladwell from Blink and The Tipping Point, both of which I own in print and audio format. Even so, I don't believe I ever managed to read any of those two in full but, in any case, I remember I was quite enthusiastic about the bits I eventually got thru. So, during wait time for my flight to Barcelona from the Brussels National last Thursday I fell upon Gladwell's latest, titled 'Outliers'.
I eventually surpassed myself by managing to swallow the 299 pages of the book in almost one go. By the time I have been landing back to Brussels from Barcelona yesterday at almost past midnight, I had been thru 3 quarters of the book which I eventually finished this morning. Almost never happened before. It must have been a real good book.
Above all, like his other two bestsellers, this is not a fiction book. It's not scientific either but as I know Gladwell, he does some hard research work before approaching a subject and to an agnostic it might seem kinda of 'scientific'... in any case the subject is fascinating and I found that I agreed wholeheartedly with most of what he writes. I often thought about these facts as well but I had no basis to explain the reasons behind them other than some 'theories' of my own... sort-of empirical kinda thing.
In a few words, Gladwell searches the reasons behind successful people (whom he calls outliers) and tries to break the myth that only the very smart succeed (those with highest IQ's so to say). His thesis is that you need to be at least of a certain smartness level but once you are there by birth, then it is a series of other factors that kick in... and he goes on about 'proving' his 'theory' about such factors by exposing a myriad examples and psycho-socio-research outcomes about individual success. The most fascinating part of the book I found to be the story about many Jewish immigrants, tailors and garment craftsmen from Eastern Europe, who arrived at the Bronx, NYC, at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century to work themselves thru poverty and persistent hard labor and become successful entrepreneurs with the generation of their siblings becoming even better businessmen and the following generation turning into successful doctors, financiers and lawyers.
In his chapter about IQ and how being (IQ) smart could help someone get successful (but never that alone), he presents Raven's last IQ test question that I found quite interesting. I spent about half hour to figure it out before falling asleep in a dry Novotel room at Sant Cougat del Valles, west of Barcelona. I think I got it... Take a try by clicking on the scan above for sharper view and tell me why you think that is if I told you that A is the solution. I promised my youngest sibling a 100 euro bill if he found out... He's still trying... Let me pass a hint... the reason, I think, doesn't lie behind any patterns but behind appearance frequencies of the three card signs (hearts, diamonds and clovers*)...
Another intriguing chapter was developed about the reasons behind airplane crashes. Funny thing is, I started reading that part of the book by the time our plane was taking off at the Barcelona airport... And I am not too much fond of hanging 10 km above the ground at 900 km/hr. Even after I have flown thousands of hours in my life.
Anyways, that was indeed an extremely interesting book worth spending a few leisure hours to read. Another slam dunk for Gladwell getting a new National bestseller.
*I'll describe my solution in the 'reactions' below in a few days... I'd ruin the fun if I did it right away, nooot?