David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

by Malcolm Gladwell

Paperback, 2015


On hold

Call number

BF503 .G53


Back Bay Books (2015), Edition: Reprint, 352 pages


This book uncovers the hidden rules that shape the balance between the weak and the mighty and the powerful and the dispossessed. In it the author challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks. He begins with the real story of what happened between the giant and the shepherd boy (David and Goliath) those many years ago. From there, the book examines Northern Ireland's Troubles, the minds of cancer researchers and civil rights leaders, murder and the high costs of revenge, and the dynamics of successful and unsuccessful classrooms, all to demonstrate how much of what is beautiful and important in the world arises from what looks like suffering and adversity. -- From book jacket.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member SamSattler
As always in a book of Malcolm Gladwell's, "David and Goliath" is an easily accessible series of stories illustrating the author's latest pet theory about the way the world really works. This time around, Gladwell focuses on the roll of underdogs doing battle with the giants of the world and just how surprisingly often those underdogs are able to defeat their larger, better funded, or physically (or technologically) superior foes.

The book begins with Gladwell's detailed re-telling of the biblical story of David and Goliath. The way that Gladwell tells it, in fact, it sounds as if Goliath (slow witted, vision challenged, etc.) never really had a chance against the little shepherd boy who was an absolute sharpshooter with a rock and sling. From there, Gladwell offers nine chapters filled with stories of individuals, companies, nations, doctors, and politicians who overcame overwhelming odds against foes who often failed to take them seriously until it was way too late. Gladwell breaks the book down into three main sections. Part One covers "the advantages of disadvantages;" Part Two, offers the "theory of desirable difficulty;" and Part Three, discusses "the limits of Power."

Bottom Line: there is hope for us all if we are content to refine our weaknesses into unexpected strengths that give us the edge over our more complacent, (even competent) opponents or opposition. What seem to be advantages can be turned against an opponent by a challenger so desperate that anything goes. Those surviving the near misses of certain death or destruction often feel so invulnerable as a result that they are able to pull off victory against the greatest of odds because they feel almost "protected" by their first brush with the end. What seem to be disadvantages in life (such as severe dyslexia) can open up new avenues to success as they force the disadvantaged to adapt.

All of this is, of course, wonderful theory that is "proved" by the author's anecdotal evidence...and we all know what that is really worth. But "David and Goliath" will make you think out of the box, even if only for the few hours it takes you to read the book. And that's always a good thing.
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LibraryThing member CorbettBuchly
As always, Gladwell's writing is fascinating and compelling. Not to be cliche, but I always find his books hard to put down. Here, Gladwell shows us how advantages can be disadvantages and visa-versa, and along the way he makes some penetrating and poignant points about society and the nature of power.
LibraryThing member Daniel.Estes
Malcolm Gladwell hits another one out of the park with David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

Similar to how his last book, Outliers: The Story of Success, is more than just how people succeed, this one is more than how the underdog beats the giant. We mythologize the Davids and the Goliaths of this world although in doing so we grossly underestimate the underdog's inherent advantage and the giant's masked weaknesses.

Towards the middle of the book, through the subjects of the Civil Rights Movement and the British occupation of Ireland, my attention noticeably waned. The material relates to the underdog's advantage and the inverted U-shaped curve, but the connection wasn't as clear as in the earlier chapters.
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LibraryThing member Tatoosh
The thesis that ties together the hodge-podge of topics address in David and Goliath is that limitations and weaknesses inherent in the strong/big/rich limit their ability to impose their will on the small/weak/powerless while the very limitations inherent in being small/weak/powerless can lead to the development of attitudes and skills that are empowering. Gladwell begins with the biblical tale of David and Goliath, but his tour of topics takes in economic deprivation and the limits of wealth, class size in public school, the benefits of being a “big fish in a small pond,” cognitive impairments, challenging established professional models, ethnic minority status, cultural and religious persecution, and tragic personal loss. Each topic is illustrated with graphic anecdotes that form the basis for Gladwell’s sweeping generalizations.

This and other Gladwell books have been challenged for their lack of a balanced consideration of the important social issues he addresses. For example, he provides compelling anecdotes about the successes of individuals with dyslexia and children raised in poverty, he scarcely acknowledges the far greater number with similar challenges that fail to overcome these deficits inherent. He does note that dyslexic individuals who have become multi-millionaires universally state that they would never “wish” dyslexia on their children, but that is only a modest tip of the hat towards balance.

Gladwell defends his work as intended to provide the basis for a conversation rather than a definitive statement of a general truth. However, he fails to make that point in this and his other writings.

Most of the vignettes presented here are interesting, and some are emotionally moving. However, the potpourri of topics insures that most readers will find some less interesting or well treated than others. Having spent a professional lifetime as a university professor, for example, I found his treatment of success in a major university to be rather shallow, and his failure to explain how the successful dyslexics managed to matriculate and earn a university degree to be dissatisfying. Gladwell’s challenge of established beliefs is well-worth considering, but readers need to maintain a healthy degree of skepticism.
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LibraryThing member jrgoetziii
What an intriguing book this is! Gladwell starts with the premise that having what seem to be a plethora of advantages can in fact hide what are really disadvantages, and that being at a supposed disadvantage can actually turn out to be advantageous. These are the lessons he takes from the story of David and Goliath, exploring the possibility that Goliath’s height was the result of a malfunctioning pituitary gland and that David’s use of the sling makes him an artilleryman who was naturally superior to the heavily armed and slow-footed infantryman represented by Goliath. So far, so good.

And so it continues, through stories of an Indian middle school girls’ high school basketball coach whose team of nerds won with the full-court press because the experienced players couldn’t break it, a high school teacher who preferred a slightly larger class because a smaller one drowned out voices, and a would-be science major whose preference for Brown over the University of Maryland placed her in classes where her perceived inferiority converted her to an arts major. The Indian coach is the amateur equivalent, of course, of Rick Pitino, who Gladwell points out was a freshman spectator when Digger Phelps’ undersized and overmatched Fordham team came into Amherst and beat the powerhouse UMass team led by Julius Erving. The student choosing between Brown and the University of Maryland had a choice that Gladwell convincingly presents as equivalent to that faced by Impressionist artists in mid-19th Century France, when they needed the Salon for success but were not the Salon’s usual artists.

But then things go awry. Gladwell begins Part Two of the book by examining the prevalence of dyslexia among successful entrepreneurs as well as the great producer Brian Glazer and the famous trial lawyer David Boies. Again, so far, so good. Until he begins to address the loss of parents during childhood. Here Gladwell’s reliance on second-hand sources begins to betray him. He cites an ‘informal survey of famous poets and writers like Keats, Wordsworth, Swift, Edward Gibbon, and Thackeray’ which purports to explain their success by the death of a parent. The educated observer has to ask: how does the great historian Gibbon fit with the others, all of whom wrote fiction? He doesn’t. He was selected deliberately as someone who fits the data.

Then Gladwell continues to claim that ‘Sixty-seven percent of the prime ministers [of England from 1800 to 1938] lost a parent before the age of sixteen. […] The same pattern can be found among American presidents. Twelve of the first forty-four U.S. presidents […] lost their fathers while they were young.’ Two problems emerge with this comparison: first, he only addresses fathers with the U.S. presidents. We have no idea about mothers. Second, twelve out of forty-four is 27.3 percent. That is VASTLY different from 67 percent. It is barely more than a quarter being compared with two-thirds. No qualitative facility with language can make up for the abuse of statistics that Gladwell is here passing off on his readers. And yet I do not know whether Gladwell himself understands this. He is, after all, deliberately passing on second-hand information.

In the next chapter he purports to show how the Civil Rights movement as led by Martin Luther King and Wyatt Walker in Alabama overcame a lack of support from the African-American community in Birmingham. Here again he relies on second-hand sources, most notably the historian Taylor Branch, rather than the greatest of all primary sources, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s great book Why We Can’t Wait. The narrative conflicts, most likely because it is overly reliant on the memories of Wyatt Walker, whom Gladwell himself presents as somewhat erratic. In presenting the Birmingham issue as the product of Bull Connor’s failure to recognize that less than twenty demonstrators were being shadowed by thousands of spectators, he makes Connor appear stupid–which he was not–and distorts what I believe to be fact and historical accuracy. King had hundreds if not thousands of demonstrators. There may have been some spectators. It was probably as difficult then as it is now to differentiate between the two crowds.

Nor is this the first time he distorts history, using secondary sources, to make it conform to what he wishes to portray as a moral message. As Gladwell says, ‘WIlliam Polk writes in Violent Politics, a history of unconventional warfare, Washington “devoted his energies to creating a British-type army, the Continental Line. As a result, he was defeated time after time and almost lost the war.’ This is a complete misunderstanding of Washington’s achievement in the Revolutionary War. What Washington did was to master and brilliantly execute the Fabian Strategy, a strategy designed to exhaust the resources of an invader who does not know the soil. The Fabian Strategy does entail losses. It is a strategy designed to win a war of attrition. I’ve described it in depth in Volume 3 of Essays on the Classics! Gladwell doesn’t know that. Instead he is preaching the virtues of nonconformity, using an alleged Washington failure, and inciting others based on historical inaccuracy. This is deeply problematic to me.

The end result is the audacious, even outrageous claim that ‘we need to remember that our definition of what is right is, as often as not, simply the way that people in positions of privilege close the door on those on the outside.’ No doubt there is some element of ‘might equals right’ in any moral code, and that element is abusive. But if this is the sole justification for glorifying the fact that Gary Cohn, another dyslexic, lied to get his initial entry into banking and used that lie to rise to the top then it is extremely problematic. It is the equivalent of justifying Antonio Bastardo’s use of steroids to obtain the 25th spot on the roster of the Philadelphia Phillies. The guy who plays by the rules and also does not have advantages gets screwed by an immoral act. Gladwell makes the immoral act sound like an act of outright genius and something we should all look up to and emulate. I have no respect for that kind of thinking.

In short, Gladwell’s moral claims are dubious, and there are problems in the book with selection of data, use and interpretation of statistics, and historical accuracy. This is a work of sloppy scholarship that is disturbingly, even dangerously persuasive. And it is a total disappointment because the topic is meaningful, the introduction is brilliant, and the subject matter needs to be addressed seriously. It’s really too bad.
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LibraryThing member justindtapp
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants . I disagree with Tyler Cowen, I do not think this is one of Gladwell's best books. It is thought-provoking and I enjoyed it, but reviewers (see here and here and here) have poked too many holes in it for me to think it authoritative.

Gladwell's premise is that we misperceive who is at an advantage and disadvantage. David wasn't an "underdog," a stone and sling in the hands of a mobile warrior had a huge advantage from a distance over a slow-moving giant (who was possibly blind) with a spear.

People can create advantage from disadvantage by altering their paradigm. He uses the full-court press in basketball (hailing Pitino, even) as an example. (I love to harp on peoples' paradigms as weaknesses, and this is my favorite example (not mentioned by Gladwell) of an item reinvented and made better by approaching from a different paradigm.)

Gladwell also points to research showing that millionaires--successful people-- have disproportionately faced handicaps, such as dislexia or losing a parent at an early age. He illustrates using a few examples, including the president of Goldman Sachs, who credit dyslexia to their future success. A "desirable difficulty" creates a willpower or stubborness that later serves the otherwise handicapped. However, Gladwell notes that the socially dysfunctional--namely prisoners-- are also disproportionately represented by dyslexics and people who lost parents at an early age. So, what does that tell us? Certain events in childhood can lead to polar outcomes, and it depends on luck, grace, and other circumstances? Did I need to read the book to know that? Do I not already know enough people who ended up in opposite ends of the spectrum to note this phenonmenon?

I appreciate Gladwell for trying to popularize economics, psychology, and statistics into "adventure stories" for the common reader. But repeated accusations that he cherry-picked his studies are problematic. You can't draw broad conclusions from a few anecdotes, especially when contradictory evidence is ignored.

You will learn about all sorts of historical trivia that Gladwell wants to draw your attention to. How Martin Luther King Jr. eagerly hoped children he'd recruited to march in Birmingham would be savagely attacked by dogs, and was quite happy when they were jailed in inhumane conditions. How the Three Strikes law in California was counterproductive in reducing crime, and how that relates to the British's failed occupation of Northern Ireland. How French Huguenots harbored Jews and behaved as true Christians in the midst of WWII and went unpunished, standing up to the Nazi/Vichy Goliath. But as reviewers have noted, other villages that stood up (not mentioned by Gladwell) were destroyed. Perhaps the full-court press isn't as widely shelved as the reader is led to believe.

I give this book 3 stars. There was a lot of historical trivia that I learned and found useful. His main premise, that we shouldn't count people out based on our preconceived biases and paradigms, doesn't strike me as very interesting. If it strikes you as novel, then you are Gladwell's target audience.
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LibraryThing member Neftzger
I really enjoyed Gladwell's previous works, such as The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference and Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. What made those books interesting for me is that I'd already read many of the actual research studies he described in those books, and I like the way Gladwell summarizes these in a way that the average person can understand.

This book is a little different because Gladwell is looking at case studies, rather than global research findings. In some instances, these cases are the exception to the rule while in others they're more of a global truth. This made me a bit uneasy at times, because I know that most people view case studies as universal truths rather than as isolated instances and less probable outcomes.

Nevertheless, Gladwell is clear about the intent of the book: to show instances where being an underdog is sometimes an advantage and that a powerful position is not always the best place to be. There are some great stories and lessons in this book, and I enjoyed hearing about them. My favorite was the chapter on Wilma Derksen where the author talks about "a woman who walks away from the promise of power and finds the strength to forgive" and how this can turn the world upside down.

True to his usual style, Gladwell delivers an engaging group of stories and examples. Seeing an underdog triumph inspires all of us, and gaining some insight into how or why this happens doesn't take away anything. In fact, it only adds to the hope that we can all achieve and overcome.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
Just love the many different subjects Gladwell tackles. Found the explanation of the David and Goliath story impressive. I think he has mastered the way people think and feel about things, and how their thinking may be faulty. What one thinks is the best thing is often not. Subjects from College, to the size of classrooms, dyslexia and many others are tackled and explored. His writing is accessible and interesting if sometimes a bit too dense. I have read all of his books now and have found something or more than one thing informative in all of them. Wonder what he will tackle next?… (more)
LibraryThing member les121
I’ve always felt that Malcolm Gladwell speaks to my own life experiences and observations in a way no other writers do, and this couldn’t be more true than in David and Goliath. I utterly loved it from the first page to the last. It’s everything I’ve come to expect from Gladwell - though provoking, engrossing, and entirely fascinating. I highly recommend it.… (more)
LibraryThing member Ilithyia
To be honest, I didn't like this book as much as I did [The Tipping Point], [Blink], and [Outliers]. The first several chapters were intriguing, though I admit that I almost stopped reading when he said that smaller class sizes don't make a difference in education - so glad he clarified that one! But the last few chapters were a little too much history (Civil Rights movement and the Protestant-Catholic conflict in Ireland) and not enough sociology. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading about history (well, some aspects of it), but I felt like he got away from the crux of what makes his books so good: the relevancy to everyday life. Plus he just seemed like he was recapping these major events in history and then , oh by the way, these people overcame challenges and came out stronger for it. It was if he was tacking his thesis statement on at the end.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of his other works so this won't keep me from reading books by him in the future. I'll just say that this one wasn't what I was hoping it would be.
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LibraryThing member PeskyLibrary
Malcolm Gladwell has a new book out called David and Goliath. It has been getting just so- so reviews. Instead of reading it, I went back and got one of his older books called – What The Dog Saw. It is a collection of his writings from the New Yorker. He covers a wide range of topics from women’s hair dye, Cesar Millan the dog whisperer, the founder of the birth control pill and my favorite an essay on plagiarism. His writing forces you to examine and think about things from a different perspective. Although sometimes he sounds a bit smug, I think he would be a very entertaining dinner guest – no awkward silences – just lots of ideas being kicked around.-Chris, Bookstore-… (more)
LibraryThing member Tom_Wright
Hum. I liked it, but his books are all starting to run together for me now.
LibraryThing member tangledthread
Once again, Malcolm Gladwell takes a look at conventional thinking and turns it upside down. In this title he uses a variety of case studies to support the theory that what we commonly see as positions of advantage are not always so. And that positions of disadvantage may actually be a strength.
It's interesting to me that he uses quite a few references from the Bible, both Old and New Testament as introductions to a concept, which is a follow through of the biblical story used in the title.

He starts with battling giants as the title suggests, and points out the disadvantages of being large, slow, and myopic as the figure Goliath was purported to be by some sources. And analyzes the advantages of David, a young shepherd boy with no armor or experience in warfare, yet had the advantages of speed, skill, and maneuverability. These two tropes set the stage for the series of topics and case studies that he uses to support his point.

He touches on various topics such as choice of college, guerilla warfare, the 1960's Civil Rights movement, classroom size, California's Three Strike Rule, successful dyslexics, and children who've lost a parent at a young age.

This is not a book on empirical research in social science, but it is typical Malcolm Gladwell who challenges his readers to check their assumptions and prejudices at the opening of the book and look at the world in a more expansive way.

We listened to this as an audiobook, read by the author. He does a superb job of orally presenting his work. It was like sitting through a fascinating lecture.
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LibraryThing member sbloom42
Puh-lease. There were some interesting tidbits in this book, but by and large it's made up of case studies that try to prove some larger "disruptive" idea. There may be one or two case studies per idea, and for me, that's not enough to prove anything. So the book becomes just a collection of stories, and not really good ones at that. Gladwell seems to be so happy with himself that he's presenting these radical ideas, but the fact that some people can turn a bad situation into an advantage? Or that there's a law of diminishing returns? Where's the breakthrough idea? The redeeming grace of this book was the first story, about the battle between David and Goliath. There were many facts in that story that I was not familiar with, and I would have much rather read a full book focusing on that battle and with much more supporting evidence for the facts presented. At least this book is a quick read.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookworm12
In his trademark style, Gladwell takes a fascinating look at the way society views advantages and underdogs. He compares studies and historical cases to reach an interesting conclusion about perception vs. fact when it comes to getting ahead. I thought this one would be all about overcoming obstacles and rising above in difficult situations. Instead the book is about looking at the world differently. What’s really an advantage? Is it better to be a big fish in a little pond or little fish in a big pond? Is it really beneficial to have a small class of students or to attend an Ivy League school?

While I found both the content and the conclusions interesting, this book felt a bit less focused than Tipping Point or Blink in my opinion. I felt like the different examples and studies didn’t fit together as smoothly as they could have to illustrate his points. Many of the points he makes either felt like common sense deductions or like too much of a stretch. Learning about the impact of class size was interesting, but it never quite tied into the usage of propaganda during the Civil Rights movement. I learned a lot and enjoyed it, but it’s not my favorite.

BOTTOM LINE: I think I would enjoy just about anything Gladwell writes, but this one ranks farther down on the list for me. I would start with one of his earlier books if you’re new to his work.
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LibraryThing member khiemstra631
Perhaps not the most fascinating of Gladwell's books explaining why things are the way they are. He basically addresses the question of whether it is better to be a big duck in a little pond or a little duck in a big pond. A lot of the book is spent looking at education in terms of the optimum class size for the best learning experience for children as well as whether a very smart student is better off attending a high-ranking Ivy League-type school or a more middle of the road state university.… (more)
LibraryThing member Jim_Sipe
Excellent as always. I have not found a Malcolm Gladwell book that I did not enjoy and have learned good life lessons.
LibraryThing member dtn620
So this is a Malcolm Gladwell book, it's what you'd expect it to be. People who like him will like the book, people who don't will have their objections. I liked Outliers better. So that's it, that's my review. Glib, pointless, and within the terms of service or whatever dumb thing is causing interesting reviews to be deleted.
LibraryThing member Meredy
Six-word review: Gaining, recognizing, and using personal power.

Extended review:

Malcolm Gladwell has a great thing going, and I can't fault him for making the most of what he's got. His current title, David and Goliath, is now at 16 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, following in the groove set by its four best-selling predecessors. His name is well known, and references to his take on the workings of the world crop up frequently in certain kinds of conversations and settings.

Maybe I'm just envious because I've never had anything on the best-seller list, but I think his formula is wearing a bit thin. Would this book have made it to the top if it had been his first? I'm inclined to doubt it. It just doesn't pack the intuitive punch of Blink or exert the logical appeal of The Tipping Point.

Gladwell's collection of biographical narratives interpreted in the light of a common theme is engaging, making the point again and again that adversity can confer advantage and that the actions of an individual can have incalculable consequences. Nevertheless, the "David and Goliath" conceit feels tacked on, as if a catchy title and a familiar motif counted for more in the Marketing Department than a well-integrated organizing concept. And it probably does.

What this book is actually about, it seems to me, is not the little guy against the big guy but the meaning and use of power, the authority of personal conviction, and the ways in which weakness and strength can be mistaken for each other and indeed can become reversed. But that would be a far less tidy notion to present, never mind being difficult to pin down in a popular phrase that sells copies.

The eye-opening character of Gladwell's observations commands attention, and the explanatory potency of his theories impresses, as it is designed to do. But I can't escape the feeling that the drive to churn out best-sellers takes precedence over the treatment of the content, which is veering toward the sensationalistic at the expense of coherency.
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LibraryThing member St.CroixSue
Gladwell, with ease and authority, is able to turn well entrenched paradigms on their heads. He challenges assumptions and makes astounding connections to get surprising conclusions. One of his best. Excellent narration.
LibraryThing member JeffV
Beginning with the biblical David and Goliath story, Malcom Gladwell establishes a premise that the book will be about scenarios where the weak and meek will overcome the strong and powerful. He doesn't do a good job sticking to this theme, however, and what we end up with is a book more in the vein of Freakonomics.

The book is really about unanticipated outcomes, then analyzing why this is the case. Catastrophic panic was anticipated in London at the outset of the Battle of Britain, yet citizens were calm and defiant in spite of daily bombings. Attempts to crack down on Catholic malcontents in Northern Ireland by British soldiers led to a 30 year struggle when it was thought overwhelming brutality would cow them quickly. After tens of billions spent on California's 3-strikes law where a 3rd crime, no matter how minor, would result in harsh penalties ranging from 25-years to life was proven to have no discernable effect on violent crime, but did lead to instances such a first-degree murderer serving an 8-year prison term (first offense) while his cell mate was in for at least 25 because he was caught stealing candy (third offense).

One of the more interesting chapters had to do with learning disabilities -- dyslexia in particular. We generally regard this as a major handicap that can prevent otherwise bright kids from excelling in school. Gladwell cites figures that suggest, however, that perhaps 40% of some of the most successful people atop the most successful companies are dyslexic. Overcoming the obstacle that makes reading difficult resulted in them compensating by honing other talents and skills; particularly memory and persuasion. It would have been irresponsible had Gladwell been remiss to mention a large percentage of the prison population (maybe as large as 70%) also suffer learning disabilities but didn't rise to the challenge in an admirable way. He doesn't give that statistic equal time, though -- he is just more impressed by those who successfully overcame their handicap.

Despite not sticking with the theme of the book very well; Gladwell does present some interesting data and some of the stories even relate to each other. But in the end, I was not motivated to go slay a giant, which was sort of my expectation for this book.
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LibraryThing member SENSpence
While the idea that a positive attitude and a little perspective can change everything is not new, this does put some new light on the subject. Rather than simply saying that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, the author shows various examples of how people overcame difficulties. I would recommend this to people who enjoy reading essays on points of views. This is not as good as Outliers but it is worth reading and might leave you feeling uplifted and refreshed, like a cat nap for the psyche.… (more)
LibraryThing member FaithLibrarian
I thought this was a very good book for our high schoolers. For one thing, he deals with a lot of people who were struggling with things that they may be struggling with right now (which college to go to, overcoming difficulties, the problems of being born rich and not having to work). BY the same token, he got enough research and facts in there that you could tell it wasn't just his opinion....… (more)
LibraryThing member petterw
This is the most unfocused of all of Malcolm Gladwell's books - but I still devoured it, was inspired by it and made personal reflections based on the stories and anecdotes he presented. The central premise, how and why underdogs still succeed, is well argued, but I feel some of the later chapters don't stay on the tracks, and others become too detailed. Still, a must for all Gladwell fans, and a good second or third book from his bibliography for everyone else.… (more)
LibraryThing member wbc3
David and Goliath is a Gladwell book through and through. Like his other books (such as The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers), it is a fun, quick read that builds its case via lots of anecdotes. In this book, he starts off using the familiar Biblical story of David and Goliath. Gladwell argues fairly persuasively that contrary to popular thinking, Goliath never stood a chance. Foot soldiers, even really large ones, were easy targets for stone hurlers and other range-weapon fighters. Gladwell contends through the remainder of the book that overcoming perceived disadvantages is what makes many people successful. He then uses examples of people who have overcome disadvantages (poverty, dyslexia, dead parents, etc.) to show how they were instrumental to their successes. Gladwell concedes that few of these people would wish their situations on others (and indeed they shelter their own children from those situations), but they still understand that those circumstances were critical to their successes. I would recommend this book to almost everyone who wants to explore the causes of success or just wants a fun book to read.… (more)


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