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David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants Hardcover – October 1, 2013
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*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
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is broken down into three parts. The first part explores the concept of disadvantages that latter manifest themselves as hidden strengths. The author explores how a girls middle school basketball team was able to win the Little League basketball championship despite having a team of first time basketball players coached by an Indian immigrant who was unfamiliar with the game. There is also a fascinating part dedicated to showing how second rate scholars at first rate universities are at a disadvantage when compared to first rate scholars at second rate universities.
The second part focus more so on particular people and on their "desirable difficulties." You learn about a dyslexic who uses his disorder as a point of strength in his profession as a trial lawyer and of another who does the same in Hollywood. Gladwell then describes the life of Jay Freireich, a pioneer in the treatment of cancer and use of chemotherapy, as an example of someone who persisted through traumatic events in his childhood to accomplish something great in his life. The fundamental message being here that people who overcome these "desirable difficulties" develop inner strength that helps them to persist onward through the future challenges that life will throw there way.
The third part discusses the limits of power. It was my favorite. Gladwell discusses the limits of power that large institutions have on minority groups. You see through the eyes of characters from both sides of the spectrum. Those that are being oppressed by the higher power and those that are committing the act of oppression. Gladwell's narrative does a good job of clearly demonstrating that the reality that people experience in life cannot be changed by brute, domineering force. A better way would be to understand where this group is coming from and working within their framework of understanding to guide them into making the right decisions in life. A great example is made by the author through demonstrating the catastrophic mistake made by Leon Goure and ultimately Lyndon B Johnson in choosing to bomb Vietnam.
My main problem with the book is how Gladwell often times frames his stories in order to be consistent with his narrative. He does provide some disclaimer that a lot of the examples he used of people with "desirable difficulties" were people who were fortunate to overcome their unfortunate standing in life but I think he fails to resoundingly capture the fact that an overwhelming majority of people with disorders or traumatic events in their childhood are polarized by the experience and have difficulty recovering and leading what many of us would consider "normal" lives.
Another problem with this book is that Gladwell commits some blatant factual errors in telling him stories. For example, in one part he compared post-WWII Poland to modern day North Korea. As someone who was raised by two parents who grew up in this country and witnessed it first hand I can tell you that this far from the truth. My father, an Econ major, routinely argued with his Communist professors over the merits of Capitalism and guess what...he was not shipped to a labor camp and was actually allowed to graduate (although with probably weaker marks than if he had kept his mouth shut). Sure, the country was poor, oppressed by the Soviet ruling power, and offered its citizens little hope for the future, but by no means was it modern day North Korea. So when Gladwell discusses Ingvar Kamprad's radical value proposition by producing furniture in Poland it is more so akin to US conglomerates choosing to manufacture their sneakers in China in the 1980s. And if Gladwell made this sort of hyperbole when discussing this particular story, how am I supposed to buy into the things that he says on topics I am less knowledgeable about?
Overall, this is typical Gladwell. It is a fun book to read with some entertaining stories in it and one central idea that binds it all together, but revolutionary it is not.
Gladwell does a great job capturing plenty of true stories of people with disadvantages, or in disadvantageous situations. The first three chapters focus on redefining our situations, followed by the next three which are cause-and-effect relationships (how our disadvantages shape our lives for advantages), followed by more chapters of redefining disadvantages through questioning what real power looks like. Gladwell does a good job of interweaving these stories with data such as charts and graphs, as well as historical data to defend his main idea. Although Gladwell makes great points, you might find his story-telling to become redundant. You begin to understand where the stories are going and get used to Gladwell’s style early on in the reading. This is to be expected since Gladwell is a well-known journalist; for he collects his thoughts thoroughly and uses a set format to write his stories. Only once did I find myself questioning Gladwell’s sources, and that was on his information about Goliath’s health. He only quotes one source and uses that source heavily to prove the point that Goliath had an illness in his brain that made him big and made his movements slow. Other than that, I appreciated his use of sources.
Overall, this book is well worth reading as it can change your thinking for the better. Advantages have disadvantages, but disadvantages present the opportunity to discover new-found advantages. This is a positive message to put any underdog on top in all kinds of negative circumstances. Everyone faces giants in life. Like Goliath, those giants call us out to battle with them on their terms, but we don’t have to meet those giants on their terms. Normally when we do, we lose. Rather, we can find strengths in the greatest of weaknesses, and opportunities in all kinds of situations that turn disadvantages upside-down.
SUMMARY: If you like Nonfiction, Sociology, Psychology, & unique theories/perspectives with facts to support them but written in a colloquial way that is entertaining & easy to understand then you'll LOVE this book!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The two main points I took away from this book:
•too much of any good thing will lead to a...Read more