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David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants Hardcover – October 1, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gladwell’s best-sellers, such as The Tipping Point (2000) and Outliers (2008), have changed the way we think about sociological changes and the factors that contribute to high levels of success. Here he examines and challenges our concepts of “advantage” and “disadvantage” in a way that may seem intuitive to some and surprising to others. Beginning with the classic tale of David and Goliath and moving through history with figures such as Lawrence of Arabia and Martin Luther King Jr., Gladwell shows how, time and again, players labeled “underdog” use that status to their advantage and prevail through the elements of cunning and surprise. He also shows how certain academic “advantages,” such as getting into an Ivy League school, have downsides, in that being a “big fish in a small pond” at a less prestigious school can lead to greater confidence and a better chance of success in later life. Gladwell even promotes the idea of a “desirable difficulty,” such as dyslexia, a learning disability that causes much frustration for reading students but, at the same time, may force them to develop better listening and creative problem-solving skills. As usual, Gladwell presents his research in a fresh and easy-to-understand context, and he may have coined the catchphrase of the decade, “Use what you got.” --David Siegfried


"Truly intriguing and inspiring, especially when Gladwell discusses 'desirable difficulties'....Gladwell's account of the journey of Dr. Emil 'Jay' Freireich is unforgettable." ---Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times

"Provocative....David and Goliath is a lean, consuming read....The book's most crafty, engaging chapter ties together the Impressionist movement and college choices to highlight the fact that gaining admission to elite institutions, which we typically perceive as an advantage, is no guarantee of success." ---John Wilwol, San Francisco Chronicle

"As always, Gladwell's sweep is breathtaking and thought-provoking....I've long admired Gladwell's work." ---Joe Nocera, New York Times

"David and Goliath readers will travel with colorful characters who overcame great difficulties and learn fascinating facts about the Battle of Britain, cancer medicine and the struggle for civil rights, to name just a few topics upon which Mr. Gladwell's wide-ranging narrative touches. This is an entertaining book." ---Christopher F. Chabris, Wall Street Journal

"Fascinating....Gladwell is a master of synthesis. This perennially bestselling author prides himself on radical re-thinking and urges the rest of us to follow suit." ---Heller McAlpin, Washington Post

"What propels the book, like all of Gladwell's writing, is his intoxicating brand of storytelling. He is the master of mixing familiar elements with surprise counter-intuitions, and then seasoning with a sprinkling of scientific evidence....Gladwell is a master craftsman, an outlier amongst authors." ---Rob Brooks, Huffington Post

"Gladwell sells books by the millions because he is masterful at explaining how the world works---the power of critical mass, the arbitrariness of success, etc.---packaging his ideas in fun, accessible, and poignant vignettes." ---Lionel Beehner, USA Today

"Gladwell's most provocative book yet. David and Goliath challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, drawing upon history, psychology, and powerful narrative talent to rethink how we view the world around us and how to deal with the challenges life throws at us." ---Susanne Jaffe, Columbus Dispatch

"The bestselling author behind the inventive Outliers, Blink, and The Tipping Point is back with another thought provoking theory that fascinates, entertains, and informs. He gives underdogs their due this time, challenging everything readers believe about facing-and conquering-life's stumbling blocks, using the 'real' story of David and Goliath and more to make his point." ---Celeste Williams, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

"Gladwell has made a career out of questioning conventional wisdom, and here he examines the allegedly unlikely triumph of the weak over the mighty and shows it's not so unlikely after all. 4 stars." ---Judith Newman, People Magazine

"The 50-year-old Canadian is a superstar, the most popular staff writer on The New Yorker and a hero in the frequent-flier lounge where journalism, social science, business management, and self-help hang out....It's a good story and he's got plenty more." ---Jeff Baker, The Oregonian

"Pop culture pundit Malcolm Gladwell is an idea blender, mixing concepts from vastly different sources (everything from business to science to the Bible) to produce new ways of seeing the world." ---Barbara O'Dair, Reader's Digest

"Engrossing.... Gladwell's singular gift is animating the experience of his subjects. He has an uncanny ability to simplify without being simplistic: clean and vivid Strunk and White prose in the service of peerless storytelling." ---David Takami, Seattle Times

"Contemporary society can't escape history when Malcolm Gladwell explains the world as he does with David and Goliath."---Jane Henderson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell explores the dynamics that inform and effect our everyday lives. By analyzing the Biblical account of the clash between David and Goliath, Gladwell presents a bold new interpretation of the lessons we should apply from it." ---Today Show

See all Editorial Reviews

Best Books of the Month
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (October 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316204366
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316204361
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,667 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Malcolm Gladwell has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1996. He is the author of The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw. Prior to joining The New Yorker, he was a reporter at the Washington Post. Gladwell was born in England and grew up in rural Ontario. He now lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

436 of 473 people found the following review helpful By Jack on October 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Does having a disadvantage make you stronger in the long run? Malcolm Gladwell explores this and similar questions in his latest book. Like his previous works, Gladwell delves into the stories of many people (some famous, some not) to determine why some become wildly successful whereas others crash and burn. Are there key elements in their upbringing that push people to excel?

Two interesting observations revolve around dyslexia and the loss of a parent. Some of the most prominent people in the world are, surprisingly, dyslexic. Richard Branson, Charles Schwab, and Brian Glazer are three. A shocking 12 of the 44 U.S. Presidents, including George Washington and Barack Obama, lost their fathers when they were young. Gladwell explores the possibility that people who are faced with a major disadvantage can use it to propel them to heights they otherwise would not have achieved.

While this book is very thought-provoking, I must admit that I can't completely agree with all of it. I found some conclusions to be over-simplified. Even so, this an entertaining and worthwhile read. Gladwell fans will definitely appreciate it.

Readers of this book should also consider two others with similar themes. Gladwell's stories reminded me of my favorite recent memoir, Dr. Anthony Youn's In Stitches which explores how a young underdog overcame his insecurities to eventually become a successful physician. A fascinating story. The second book I recommend is Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success which examines what factors make some people succeed and others fail. A similar theme as "David and Goliath," this one looks at what intangibles contribute to one's success. It's a thought-provoking and fun read.
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437 of 485 people found the following review helpful By Book Shark TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

"David and Goliath" is an interesting yet somewhat disappointing book about what happens when ordinary people confront giants. Best-selling author, Malcolm Gladwell provides many examples that range from the compelling to the dare I say feeble. That being said, the book is stimulating and it's never boring, it just lacked the brilliance that a book like his very own "Outliers" has. This provocative 320-page book is broken out into the following three parts: 1. The Advantages of Disadvantages (and Disadvantages of Advantages), 2. The Theory of Desirable Difficulty, and 3. The Limits of Power.

1. Always engaging, provocative and a page turner. Gladwell is a gifted narrator.
2. Interesting subject, never boring. You never know what you are going to get from Gladwell. A great premise and title for a book, "David and Goliath".
3. Gladwell explores two main ideas through stories and keen observations. "What we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty. And second, that we consistently get these kinds of conflicts wrong."
4. A recurring theme that resonates throughout the book, "There is an important lesson in that for battles with all kinds of giants. The powerful and the strong are not always what they seem."
5. I absolutely loved the story of Vivek Ranadive's basketball team and where Pitino's trademark strategy came from. "The whole Redwood City philosophy was based on a willingness to try harder than anyone else."
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441 of 507 people found the following review helpful By Derek Halpern on October 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
You might read some reviews that hate on this book.

They'll say they don't like his pseudo-scientific claims. They'll say he oversimplifies everything. They might even mention some "incidents" where they witnessed a deluge of "random" people who hated on this book... just a day after it's released.

But I believe those people have an agenda. An agenda where they decided they were going to hate this book before they even read it.

I'll explain.

When I buy a Malcolm Gladwell book, I don't expect in-depth analysis of hundreds of research studies. For that, I'll turn to someone like Eliot Aronson, Dan Ariely, or some new blood like Adam Grant. When I buy a Malcolm Gladwell book I expect to read compelling stories that bring a few pieces of key research to life. I also expect to be inspired by these stories. And in that regard, David and Goliath OVER DELIVERS.

#1 I loved the story of the impressionists

I won't ruin the story for you because I think you should buy the book and read it. But the short of it is this: When the impressionists were shunned from the high art society in France, they created their own art show. And their art became more popular. And today, their art is essentially priceless since the art they were showing in their 'offsite' art show totaled more than billion dollars worth of art.

What's funny about this story is the connection to Gladwell and today. Gladwell might get shunned by some nitpicking academics, and that's fine. He's not trying to break into the world of academia. He created his own world, and he's the guy selling millions of books.

This doesn't mean I hate academia though. I run a website called Social Triggers, and a podcast called Social Triggers Insider. My goal?
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