Nonfiction Book Review: Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
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(Scroll down for categories like my biased opinion, educational value, Common Core potential, recommended for, picky readers will say, and suggestions for teaching.)

For my first-ever nonfiction book review, I bring you my recently-read favorite: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It's the first non-fiction book in a long time that really "stuck" in my head the way fiction does and made me want to keep reading!

My biased opinion: I loved it, but some chapters more than others. My favorite was Chapter 2, which was about "the 10,000 hour" rule; it really made me think about whether it's more important to force students into well-roundedness or to let them doggedly pursue one skill or hobby.

Educational value: This can be an English teacher's dream as a model for argumentative writing (especially advanced forms, including delayed thesis statements or developing the argument over time), as well as using evidence in writing. He cites studies, quotes experts, and has footnotes that I actually enjoyed reading.

And, oh yeah - the content is fabulous too.

CCSS Potential: In addition to being a complex non-fiction text, this has serious potential for a LOT of Reading Informational Text standards in middle/high school, including how he builds a central idea, comparing structures/chapters/all of his books, analyzing the word "outliers", evaluating his argument, and even author's point of view and tone.

Recommended for: 8th grade and up (I was actually introduced to the book by some advanced eighth grade student readers!)

Picky Readers will say:

  • "He takes forever to make a point." (true, he builds a case slowly)
  • "At least the sections are short." (it's divided into sections within long chapters)
  • "I really liked Chapter __." (most people find at least one chapter to resonate with)

Suggestions for Teaching:

  • I'd love to build a unit around Chapter 2 alone (and may do so), but one could easily adapt my Chapter Study Guides assignment to each chapter of the book and have students co-teach the book in a compressed unit OR slowly over time. 
  • Create debates or Socratic Seminars around the premise of each chapter 
  • Build a unit around this book and the concept of privilege and how students can overcome the barriers in their lives
  • Apply it to a biography unit, looking at a famous person and asking students to identify what made this person an "outlier" (which is just like the Secrets of Success project in my research bundle).

If YOU have a teaching idea for this book, a story to share, OR a book recommendation of a title that you'd like me to review in this way, let me know in the comments below! :-)

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