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David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants Paperback – April 7, 2015
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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 --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
"Truly intriguing and inspiring."―Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times
"Provocative....David and Goliath is a lean, consuming read."―John Wilwol, San Francisco Chronicle
"As always, Gladwell's sweep is breathtaking and thought-provoking."―Joe Nocera, New York Times
"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'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
"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
"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
Top customer reviews
This time around I kind of agree with some of that criticism. "David & Goliath" still follows that same pattern but somehow it's all a bit too formulaic. The underdog topic that's kicked off in the beginning is guaranteed to catch the readers' interest and to sell more books, but it really doesn't carry through into the rest of the book. Who wouldn't root for David to carry the day. But then the shocker in that story--which is carried through the rest of the book ... Goliath really didn't stand a chance like the proverbial fool who brings a knife (or in this case a spear) to a gunfight (or in this case a 135 mile per hour pebble launched from a sling).
From there we see that a wide variety of seemingly disconnected topics about underdogs or assumptions about power and advantage follow that same premise. That things we see as advantages or disadvantages really aren't ... like smaller class sizes, going to Ivy League schools, having dyslexia, being militarily weak, having a bad childhood, losing a parent when young. All of these serve to make later achievers stronger, more creative and--most of all--disagreeable, which turns them into household names. Gladwell continues to do the deal with these stories by making them interesting and compelling, but it all gets a bit tedious as he continually lists them side by side to repeatedly make the same points.
As inspirational as these stories are, there are certainly legions of achievers who didn't suffer those disadvantages and still accomplished great things in their lives. So the message and readership for this book should perhaps be focused on people whose prospects appear diminished so they they don't give up in the face of adversity. For the rest, the stories and life lessons are so negative that the book fails to elevate us to bigger and better things.
As other reviewers pointed out too, it felt like the third part of the book that focuses on how authority fails when seen as illegitimate seemed a big jump from what Gladwell seemed to be targeting in the first two parts. It was almost like his editor or publisher had to encourage him to add more. And in so doing he failed to drive home the more important points he had established up front. And so the book just ends. I don't feel elevated as I did when I completed "The Tipping Point," "Blink" or Outliers." I just felt depressed that the world is such a nasty place and it presumably requires a poor childhood to rise above it all.
I am not much into pep talk or self-help books but once I was starved for material to read while on a trip and I found Blink on a shelf in an office so I read it through the night.
Malcolm Gladwell has an uncanny talent for showing you what you think you know in a slightly different light and make it look completely alien to you - be it tough anti-crime policy, mythologic events or simply what it means to be happy.
I highly recommend as these books are riveting and uplifting while still passing the "no way!?!" test.
Gladwell continues this theme throughout his book. Helping us to rethink what we consider weaknesses. The author also helps us to see that advantages come with disadvantages as well while disadvantages create the environment necessary where greatness can rise from, I enjoyed reading about Vivek Ranadive and his merry band of unathletic middle school girls who find a way to win on the basketball court by trying harder than those who should easily triumph over Vivek's team.
The most interesting part of the book was Gladwell's stories of those who have had learning disabilities such as dyslexia, and how those individuals rose to great heights as entrepreneurs. These stories conjured up a negative feeling for me in regards to the educational system of America and how this needs changing. Although Gladwell is a great communicator and storyteller, there were times where his stories were longer than needed. I felt his point was made fairly early in the book, but he continued to stress it through drawn out stories.
I would recommend this book to those who want to think outside of the box. It could also be a great book for coaches looking for added motivation for their teams. I am glad I read this book and now am considering taking a look at one of his more famous pieces, "Outliers."