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

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

by Malcolm Gladwell


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Malcolm Gladwell's provocative new #1 bestseller -- now in paperback.

Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a pebble and a sling-and ever since, the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David's victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn't have won.

Or should he?

In DAVID AND GOLIATH, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, suffer from a disability, lose a parent, attend a mediocre school, or endure any number of other apparent setbacks.

In the tradition of Gladwell's previous bestsellers-The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers and What the Dog Saw-DAVID AND GOLIATH draws upon history, psychology and powerful story-telling to reshape the way we think of the world around us.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316204378
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 04/07/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 8,655
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

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


New York, NY

Date of Birth:

September 3, 1963

Place of Birth:

England, U.K.


University of Toronto, History degree, 1984

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David and Goliath

Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

By Malcolm Gladwell

Little, Brown and Company

Copyright © 2013 Malcolm Gladwell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-316-20436-1


At the heart of ancient Palestine is the region known as the Shephelah, a series of ridges and valleys connecting the Judaean Mountains to the east with the wide, flat expanse of the Mediterranean plain. It is an area of breathtaking beauty, home to vineyards and wheat fields and forests of sycamore and terebinth. It is also of great strategic importance.

Over the centuries, numerous battles have been fought for control of the region because the valleys rising from the Mediterranean plain offer those on the coast a clear path to the cities of Hebron, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem in the Judaean highlands. The most important valley is Aijalon, in the north. But the most storied is the Elah. The Elah was where Saladin faced off against the Knights of the Crusades in the twelfth century. It played a central role in the Maccabean wars with Syria more than a thousand years before that, and, most famously, during the days of the Old Testament, it was where the fledgling Kingdom of Israel squared off against the armies of the Philistines.

The Philistines were from Crete. They were a seafaring people who had moved to Palestine and settled along the coast. The Israelites were clustered in the mountains, under the leadership of King Saul. In the second half of the eleventh century bce, the Philistines began moving east, winding their way upstream along the floor of the Elah Valley. Their goal was to capture the mountain ridge near Bethlehem and split Saul's kingdom in two. The Philistines were battle-tested and dangerous, and the sworn enemies of the Israelites. Alarmed, Saul gathered his men and hastened down from the mountains to confront them.

The Philistines set up camp along the southern ridge of the Elah. The Israelites pitched their tents on the other side, along the northern ridge, which left the two armies looking across the ravine at each other. Neither dared to move. To attack meant descending down the hill and then making a suicidal climb up the enemy's ridge on the other side. Finally, the Philistines had enough. They sent their greatest warrior down into the valley to resolve the deadlock one on one.

He was a giant, six foot nine at least, wearing a bronze helmet and full body armor. He carried a javelin, a spear, and a sword. An attendant preceded him, carrying a large shield. The giant faced the Israelites and shouted out: "Choose you a man and let him come down to me! If he prevail in battle against me and strike me down, we shall be slaves to you. But if I prevail and strike him down, you will be slaves to us and serve us."

In the Israelite camp, no one moved. Who could win against such a terrifying opponent? Then, a shepherd boy who had come down from Bethlehem to bring food to his brothers stepped forward and volunteered. Saul objected: "You cannot go against this Philistine to do battle with him, for you are a lad and he is a man of war from his youth." But the shepherd was adamant. He had faced more ferocious opponents than this, he argued. "When the lion or the bear would come and carry off a sheep from the herd," he told Saul, "I would go after him and strike him down and rescue it from his clutches." Saul had no other options. He relented, and the shepherd boy ran down the hill toward the giant standing in the valley. "Come to me, that I may give your flesh to the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field," the giant cried out when he saw his opponent approach. Thus began one of history's most famous battles. The giant's name was Goliath. The shepherd boy's name was David.


David and Goliath is a book about what happens when ordinary people confront giants. By "giants," I mean powerful opponents of all kinds—from armies and mighty warriors to disability, misfortune, and oppression. Each chapter tells the story of a different person—famous or unknown, ordinary or brilliant—who has faced an outsize challenge and been forced to respond. Should I play by the rules or follow my own instincts? Shall I persevere or give up? Should I strike back or forgive?

Through these stories, I want to explore two ideas. The first is that much of 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. We misread them. We misinterpret them. Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness. And the fact of being an underdog can change people in ways that we often fail to appreciate: it can open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable. We need a better guide to facing giants—and there is no better place to start that journey than with the epic confrontation between David and Goliath three thousand years ago in the Valley of Elah.

When Goliath shouted out to the Israelites, he was asking for what was known as "single combat." This was a common practice in the ancient world. Two sides in a conflict would seek to avoid the heavy bloodshed of open battle by choosing one warrior to represent each in a duel. For example, the first-century bce Roman historian Quintus Claudius Quadrigarius tells of an epic battle in which a Gaul warrior began mocking his Roman opponents. "This immediately aroused the great indignation of one Titus Manlius, a youth of the highest birth," Quadrigarius writes. Titus challenged the Gaul to a duel:

He stepped forward, and would not suffer Roman valour to be shamefully tarnished by a Gaul. Armed with a legionary's shield and a Spanish sword, he confronted the Gaul. Their fight took place on the very bridge [over the Anio River] in the presence of both armies, amid great apprehension. Thus they confronted each other: the Gaul, according to his method of fighting, with shield advanced and awaiting an attack; Manlius, relying on courage rather than skill, struck shield against shield and threw the Gaul off balance. While the Gaul was trying to regain the same position, Manlius again struck shield against shield and again forced the man to change his ground. In this fashion he slipped under the Gaul's sword and stabbed him in the chest with his Spanish blade.... After he had slain him, Manlius cut off the Gaul's head, tore off his tongue and put it, covered as it was with blood, around his own neck.

This is what Goliath was expecting—a warrior like himself to come forward for hand-to-hand combat. It never occurred to him that the battle would be fought on anything other than those terms, and he prepared accordingly. To protect himself against blows to the body, he wore an elaborate tunic made up of hundreds of overlapping bronze fishlike scales. It covered his arms and reached to his knees and probably weighed more than a hundred pounds. He had bronze shin guards protecting his legs, with attached bronze plates covering his feet. He wore a heavy metal helmet. He had three separate weapons, all optimized for close combat. He held a thrusting javelin made entirely of bronze, which was capable of penetrating a shield or even armor. He had a sword on his hip. And as his primary option, he carried a special kind of short-range spear with a metal shaft as "thick as a weaver's beam." It had a cord attached to it and an elaborate set of weights that allowed it to be released with extraordinary force and accuracy. As the historian Moshe Garsiel writes, "To the Israelites, this extraordinary spear, with its heavy shaft plus long and heavy iron blade, when hurled by Goliath's strong arm, seemed capable of piercing any bronze shield and bronze armor together." Can you see why no Israelite would come forward to fight Goliath?

Then David appears. Saul tries to give him his own sword and armor so at least he'll have a fighting chance. David refuses. "I cannot walk in these," he says, "for I am unused to it." Instead he reaches down and picks up five smooth stones, and puts them in his shoulder bag. Then he descends into the valley, carrying his shepherd's staff. Goliath looks at the boy coming toward him and is insulted. He was expecting to do battle with a seasoned warrior. Instead he sees a shepherd—a boy from one of the lowliest of all professions—who seems to want to use his shepherd's staff as a cudgel against Goliath's sword. "Am I a dog," Goliath says, gesturing at the staff, "that you should come to me with sticks?"

What happens next is a matter of legend. David puts one of his stones into the leather pouch of a sling, and he fires at Goliath's exposed forehead. Goliath falls, stunned. David runs toward him, seizes the giant's sword, and cuts off his head. "The Philistines saw that their warrior was dead," the biblical account reads, "and they fled."

The battle is won miraculously by an underdog who, by all expectations, should not have won at all. This is the way we have told one another the story over the many centuries since. It is how the phrase "David and Goliath" has come to be embedded in our language—as a metaphor for improbable victory. And the problem with that version of the events is that almost everything about it is wrong.


Ancient armies had three kinds of warriors. The first was cavalry—armed men on horseback or in chariots. The second was infantry—foot soldiers wearing armor and carrying swords and shields. The third were projectile warriors, or what today would be called artillery: archers and, most important, slingers. Slingers had a leather pouch attached on two sides by a long strand of rope. They would put a rock or a lead ball into the pouch, swing it around in increasingly wider and faster circles, and then release one end of the rope, hurling the rock forward.

Slinging took an extraordinary amount of skill and practice. But in experienced hands, the sling was a devastating weapon. Paintings from medieval times show slingers hitting birds in midflight. Irish slingers were said to be able to hit a coin from as far away as they could see it, and in the Old Testament Book of Judges, slingers are described as being accurate within a "hair's breadth." An experienced slinger could kill or seriously injure a target at a distance of up to two hundred yards. [The modern world record for slinging a stone was set in 1981 by Larry Bray: 437 meters. Obviously, at that distance, accuracy suffers.] The Romans even had a special set of tongs made just to remove stones that had been embedded in some poor soldier's body by a sling. Imagine standing in front of a Major League Baseball pitcher as he aims a baseball at your head. That's what facing a slinger was like—only what was being thrown was not a ball of cork and leather but a solid rock.

The historian Baruch Halpern argues that the sling was of such importance in ancient warfare that the three kinds of warriors balanced one another, like each gesture in the game of rock, paper, scissors. With their long pikes and armor, infantry could stand up to cavalry. Cavalry could, in turn, defeat projectile warriors, because the horses moved too quickly for artillery to take proper aim. And projectile warriors were deadly against infantry, because a big lumbering soldier, weighed down with armor, was a sitting duck for a slinger who was launching projectiles from a hundred yards away. "This is why the Athenian expedition to Sicily failed in the Peloponnesian War," Halpern writes. "Thucydides describes at length how Athens's heavy infantry was decimated in the mountains by local light infantry, principally using the sling."

Goliath is heavy infantry. He thinks that he is going to be engaged in a duel with another heavy-infantryman, in the same manner as Titus Manlius's fight with the Gaul. When he says, "Come to me, that I may give your flesh to the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field," the key phrase is "come to me." He means come right up to me so that we can fight at close quarters. When Saul tries to dress David in armor and give him a sword, he is operating under the same assumption. He assumes David is going to fight Goliath hand to hand.

David, however, has no intention of honoring the rituals of single combat. When he tells Saul that he has killed bears and lions as a shepherd, he does so not just as testimony to his courage but to make another point as well: that he intends to fight Goliath the same way he has learned to fight wild animals—as a projectile warrior.

He runs toward Goliath, because without armor he has speed and maneuverability. He puts a rock into his sling, and whips it around and around, faster and faster at six or seven revolutions per second, aiming his projectile at Goliath's forehead—the giant's only point of vulnerability. Eitan Hirsch, a ballistics expert with the Israeli Defense Forces, recently did a series of calculations showing that a typical-size stone hurled by an expert slinger at a distance of thirty-five meters would have hit Goliath's head with a velocity of thirty-four meters per second—more than enough to penetrate his skull and render him unconscious or dead. In terms of stopping power, that is equivalent to a fair-size modern handgun. "We find," Hirsch writes, "that David could have slung and hit Goliath in little more than one second—a time so brief that Goliath would not have been able to protect himself and during which he would be stationary for all practical purposes."

What could Goliath do? He was carrying over a hundred pounds of armor. He was prepared for a battle at close range, where he could stand, immobile, warding off blows with his armor and delivering a mighty thrust of his spear. He watched David approach, first with scorn, then with surprise, and then with what can only have been horror—as it dawned on him that the battle he was expecting had suddenly changed shape.

"You come against me with sword and spear and javelin," David said to Goliath, "but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head.... All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord, and he will give all of you into our hands."

Twice David mentions Goliath's sword and spear, as if to emphasize how profoundly different his intentions are. Then he reaches into his shepherd's bag for a stone, and at that point no one watching from the ridges on either side of the valley would have considered David's victory improbable. David was a slinger, and slingers beat infantry, hands down.

"Goliath had as much chance against David," the historian Robert Dohrenwend writes, "as any Bronze Age warrior with a sword would have had against an [opponent] armed with a .45 automatic pistol."


Why has there been so much misunderstanding around that day in the Valley of Elah? On one level, the duel reveals the folly of our assumptions about power. The reason King Saul is skeptical of David's chances is that David is small and Goliath is large. Saul thinks of power in terms of physical might. He doesn't appreciate that power can come in other forms as well—in breaking rules, in substituting speed and surprise for strength. Saul is not alone in making this mistake. In the pages that follow, I'm going to argue that we continue to make that error today, in ways that have consequences for everything from how we educate our children to how we fight crime and disorder.

But there's a second, deeper issue here. Saul and the Israelites think they know who Goliath is. They size him up and jump to conclusions about what they think he is capable of. But they do not really see him. The truth is that Goliath's behavior is puzzling. He is supposed to be a mighty warrior. But he's not acting like one. He comes down to the valley floor accompanied by an attendant—a servant walking before him, carrying a shield. Shield bearers in ancient times often accompanied archers into battle because a soldier using a bow and arrow had no free hand to carry any kind of protection on his own. But why does Goliath, a man calling for sword-on-sword single combat, need to be assisted by a third party carrying an archer's shield?


Excerpted from David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. Copyright © 2013 Malcolm Gladwell. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction Goliath

"Am I a dog that you should come to me with sticks?" 3

Part 1 The Advantages of Disadvantages (And the Disadvantages of Advantages)

1 "It was really random. I mean, my father had never played basketball before." Vivek Ranadivé 27

2 "My largest class was twenty-nine kids. Oh, it was fun." Teresa DeBrito 61

3 "If I'd gone to the University of Maryland, I'd still be in science." Caroline Sacks 102

Part 2 The Theory of Desirable Difficulty

4 You wouldn't wish dyslexia on your child. Or would you? David Boies 165

5 "How Jay did it, I don't know." Emil "Jay" Freireich 209

6 "De rabbit is de slickest o' all de animals de Lawd ever made." Wyatt Walker 281

Part 3 The Limits of Power

7 "I wasn't born that way. This was forced upon me." Rosemary Lawlor 335

8 "We have all done something dreadful in our lives, or have felt the urge to." Wilma Derksen 395

9 "We feel obliged to tell you that there are among us a certain number of Jews." André Trocmé 449

Acknowledgments 473

Notes 475

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David and Goliath : Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 126 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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. 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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Malcolm Gladwell has such a clean, lyrical, just downright fun to read style, that it is only by degrees, over a series of his publications, I have slowly developed the opinion that his surgically clean, brick-by-brick arguments are often fairly thin, sometimes blatantly card-stacked and may lead to highly questionable conclusions. His latest publication David And Goliath, is, in my opinion, the most egregious in this regard. Just today, I read of a study in the journal Pediatrics that found children without fixed bedtimes were much more likely to develop behavioral problems by the age of seven. The conclusion pointed to restlessness, irritability and other issues related to the lack of sleep.  Yet It occurred to me that was quite a leap. Isn’t  it possible that parents who don’t enforce regular bedtimes don’t enforce a lot of things?  Isn’t it possible that the children in the study developed behavioral problems due to a lack of discipline and not a lack of sleep?   I don’t know which is the right conclusion, but would not publish the former as science.  This is my sense of Malcom Gladwell’s work; certainly in his latest work under discussion here. A good example of what I’m talking about can be found in the opening chapter, where he attempts to provide a partial explanation for Goliath’s behavior by suggesting that ( according to “many medical experts” ) he suffered from the medical condition acromegaly. Sorry, but Really? How is anyone, Doctor or not, to diagnose a complex medical condition from a few paragraphs reported by a third party in an arcane religious text that, for all it’s beauty, is not always known for its’ literal bent? It is like finding an ancient skull with a neatly bored hole in it and concluding the civilization was competent at brain surgery. Maybe an interesting thought. Maybe worth a bit more research. But not a fact to be employed in support of an argument. David and Goliath also lacks a focus. Though most chapters do pertain to an underdog them of some sort, some do not. In fact, the underdog theme seems designed to roll out the Inverted-U-shaped curve theory, which then dominates the rest of the book. The book is more about the idea that you CAN have too much of a good thing ( be too rich, have too small a class size…) than it is about the little-guy winning. Gladwell just doesn’t put two and two together in this book. He features a lengthy chapter about California's three-strikes law as yet another example of the inverted-U-shaped curve,  yet his statistics in support of the failure of the three-strikes-law are anything but conclusive. In fact, he as much states that nobody really agrees as to whether “three-strikes” works. He indicates the law was eventually significantly watered down and leaves you to deduce that his proposed cause and effect was the reasoning behind it. Lastly, and perhaps this is a bit shallow of me, but the subject matter of the book is often disturbing. There is a chapter that describes children suffering terribly from Leukemia. Another where a young girl is bound and tortured.   It’s selfish, I know. But I don’t want to read that. I don’t want to pay to read that. As Woody Allen’s fictional author in Manhattan once intoned while searching for an opening chapter,  “Let’s face it, I want to sell a few books here”.  That is how I feel about David And Goliath. Gladwell was on the hook for a new Bestseller but lacked the inspiration that led to the more concise and “tighter” Outliers. What we got was a collection of often disturbing essays that he struggles to stuff beneath a single umbrella.
MarketingGuy More than 1 year ago
The biblical story of David and Goliath is a story of courage but also of overestimating strengths and misunderstanding the power of playing a different game to make the person who seems weakest be victorious. In the face improbable odds, finding themselves inferior in scale, ability or resources is what pushes certain people to try things out of the ordinary, re-think the rules and play a different strategy – which is a formula for winning. This book makes the point in the story of Bedouins, David and Goliath and the underdog basketball team that goes undefeated. Malcolm invites us to challenge the assumption that bigger is better. One of his key points is that when you are too big , too good, too strong – you advantage starts becoming a disadvantage. He challenges us to re-think our assumptions of what is good, what is bad, what is a strength, and what is an advantage. He points out that disadvantages can be advantages and that difficulties can produce resiliency and courage. The central line is about the power of being different, becoming the big fish in a small pond that you create rather than being a small fish in a large pond – like the impressionists, who created their own pond, went against the current, and converted their weakness into strength. Adversity has the potential to make us much stronger, more resilient and courageous – when it does not crush us. People who have gone through difficult times tend to think different, challenge the status quo, and take the bold chances that people who have had it easy have not had the need or the guts to do. Those who re-think the rules and take a new road are the people who change the world. The second part of the book is about the idea that if you are Goliath, if you are in a position of strength, trying to dominate the Davids by force can be counterproductive. Authority requires legitimacy. The book talks about stories from MLK to religious clashes in Ireland to make the point. As you expect from Malcom, the stories are very interesting, enjoyable and even captivating. Yet, at the end of the day the book does not leave you with a set of powerful ideas that you have not heard before. The story of David and Goliath is thousands of years old and has been told many times. I did not find this book as intellectually stimulating as some of his previous books that have left me with a new way of thinking and have provided a foundation for more ideas to be built upon, like the Tipping Point or Blink. I can recommend this as an enjoyable read but not a breakthrough.
DPINMT More than 1 year ago
I didn't think this book was nearly as good as his other two books, which I really enjoyed. This book didn't seem to contain any great discoveries or revelations.
SandyHeart More than 1 year ago
My adult daughter terned me on to Malcolm's books a few years ago with his second book Blink. I have know read all his books. They are an excellant source of why and how people think and respond to everyday life. His latest David and Goliath explains how and why someone perceived to be an underdog can succeed.
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Mary DeKok Blowers for Readers' Favorite David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell is a business psychology book, dealing with behaviors that contribute to success, either understandably or conversely. The name refers to the account in the Christian Bible of David, a young shepherd boy who was destined to become King of Israel. The reason it relates to the principles in this book is that one episode in David’s life included battling Goliath, a Philistine giant who was challenging the Israelites. David was clearly an underdog, with no weapons, armor, or physical magnitude. What he did have was skill in killing wild beasts with a sling and stones, while protecting his sheep. He refused the current king’s offer of armor and weapons as being too heavy and unfamiliar to him. Gladwell states, “He shouldn’t have won — Or should he have?” What David also had was the favor of the omnipotent God. Gladwell’s rationale, however, states in details of the Biblical account, Goliath could not see well and was mentally defective, merely a brute force to flatten the enemy.  Whatever the factors, David did come through for the Israelites. Malcolm Gladwell goes on to give many examples of poor schools, handicapped people, and others, who maintain advantages that are unseen by others. Football teams that don’t have the best players but have a goal merely to try harder than anyone else may well win the game. Richard Branson, who has dyslexia, is profiled. He went above and beyond his expectations to found Virgin, the multifaceted corporation of great success. The point is that no matter your disadvantages, you can rise above and accomplish great things.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
Mr. Gladwell has a gift for research and connecting it to the common experience of life.  In his present work, he takes what is universally held as plainly true and sheds light on that “common knowledge” causing the reader (me, at least) to see: the power in “weaker vessels,” the abundance of strength being a liability, the genius of acting on what one knows, doing the “unthinkable” is often a move of the desperate but is often one that brings most possibilities and how revenge costs more than the offense it is intended to “balance.”  He does so in his typical clear, inviting prose so well written that this non-fiction book often reads as if it could be developed as a screenplay. The book opens with the familiar story of David and Goliath, but Mr. Gladwell “exposes” (actually he does a complete exegesis of the Biblical passage) the story to reveal that, while David was the smaller, less powerful member of that particular duo, everyone who witnessed his preparation for the battle knew that he would be victor.  The power he held was in his using what he knew, doing what he did best and not acting according to “the script” before him.  For the remainder of that section, this theme is repeated in various forms, from a father who did not know basketball leading his daughter’s team to the championships, to teachers successfully teaching in impossible settings, to how being a small fish in a large pond (educationally speaking) allows for a better education. The next section speaks to the benefits of persevering through long periods of difficulty.  The author speaks of how adversity brings about strengths that can only be “earned” through the exercise of living the pain of extreme hardship.  He speaks of those who have overcome dyslexia, grinding poverty compounded by lack of parenting and slavery to “beat the odds” to became (respectively) leaders in finance, the discoverer of the cure for childhood leukemia and helped defeat the tyranny of dictators. The last section, “The Limits of Power,” maybe the most enlightening part of a book full of “doors being opened.”  Living in a country that is the most powerful and wealthy ever to exist, it would benefit all of us to reflect upon just what that “wealth” and “power” actually means and how it needs to define each of us.  When those blessings (power, etc.) are held with a sense of entitlement, according to Mr. Gladwell’s research, they reveal themselves to be more liabilities than benefit.  However, when one manages them with the attitude of being a custodian for the profit of everyone, those words go from nouns of oppression to verbs of freedom.  To me, this underscores the truth of “to him (she) who much has been given, much is expected.” This is a book that is rather lengthy but easily read.  There is some violence described in the course of the book but it is short and only serves to highlight the point being discussed, likewise, the few “harsh” words used.  As I have found to be true with all of Mr. Gladwell’s books, this one must be read in its entirety to fully understand his message.  It is a good book to be twice given – to receive and read or to read and give.
popscipopulizer More than 1 year ago
*A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Tuesday, October 22, 2013. This book is not about underdogs and giants in any conventional sense of these terms. Rather, the book is about the curious nature of advantages and disadvantages, and how each can (under certain circumstances) become its opposite. The first lesson to be learned is that the things we take to be advantages are often no such thing. Our greatest mistake here comes from the fact that we identify a certain quality or characteristic as being a benefit or advantage, and then assume that the more of it there is the better--when this is often not the case. Put another way, most of us recognize that it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and yet we fail to appreciate just how often and where this principle applies. For instance, we recognize that having a certain amount of money greatly facilitates raising children (it being very difficult to raise a family in a state of poverty), and yet we fail to recognize that beyond a certain point wealth also makes parenting increasingly difficult (for it becomes harder and harder to instill qualities of hard-work and self-control). Or we recognize that small class sizes are a good thing, and yet we fail to recognize that classes can actually begin to suffer once they become too small (since diversity and energy begin to disappear). The second lesson to be learned here is that certain disadvantages can sometimes drive people into positions of advantage. Take the disadvantage of being born with a disability, for example. Say dyslexia. In our modern world, where the ability to read is extremely important--and practically a requirement for success--having great difficulty with reading is a major disadvantage. And indeed the statistics indicate that the vast majority of those who are born dyslexic end up falling through the cracks and missing out on success. Still, though, many dyslexics have gone on to become highly successful people; and it has also been noted that in certain fields (such as entrepreneurship) an inordinate proportion of the most successful individuals do, in fact, have dyslexia. So how can we explain these success stories? What we find in these cases is that these individuals have managed to compensate for their disability by developing skills that make up for their flaws (such as an improved memory or debating prowess). Thus, in a way, the successful dyslexic has actually benefited from his disability, because it has forced him into a position where he has had to develop other skills that have led him directly to success. Gladwell has done well to make us rethink the nature of advantages and disadvantages across many fields. The only major flaw in the book, in my view, is the third and final part. The theme of the part is that power becomes less effective (or even counter-productive) when it is wielded illegitimately. The problem with this argument is that it's a classic case of the straw-man: Gladwell has set up an opposition that is very easy to defeat, and then smashed it to pieces. What's worse is that the examples Gladwell uses to prove his point here are quite weak. Still, there is much of value in the first 2 parts of the book. A full executive summary of the book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Tuesday, October 22; a podcast discussion of the book will be available shortly thereafter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book uses lots of analogies to make points about personal or social strengths and weaknesses. Several social upheavals were referenced, both from American history and in other parts of the world. So, there are opportunities to learn some history and to analyze it in new ways. However, some of the situations used as topics were terribly un-interesting to me. I ended up skipping over a couple of sections that seemed boring or redundant. In that way, I thought the book was too long.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a recommended book of many peers of mine. I chose to read this book in my final year of high school. It could have not embodied much better what one feels when being in a graduating class of roughly 2,500 students. It was not the easiest book to read but a very interesting and amazing book for someone that can see both sides to something. I have never connected this much with a book because of the struggles and being a timid person, it always felt as an underdog as David was. The different stories and the diferent aspects of life and people of all different successes and at different levels of life, this book shows one really can be successful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the book, David and Goliath, I found many messages within this book that it helped me throughout my life. In the first chapter, the main message was to figure out your biggest weaknesses, then take those weaknesses and find your greatest advantages. The author, Malcolm Gladwell uses Vivek Ranadive and his daughter’s junior basketball team as an example for this message. But how does Vivek Ranadive and the team relate to this central message? The girls junior team were the worst teams until Ranadive had noticed something wrong. He realized that their greatest weakness was the lack of experience. Ranadive then decided to institute a full court press which was rarely seen within the girls league which was why it was such an effective method. The reason why the underdogs won game after game was because what they did was so innovated in going outside the strategical norms
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was truly an eye-opening book. I learned the simple fact that being an underdog, meaning having few resources than the established powers to be, can be an advantage, so long as it's perceived that way. It's almost better to have your back against the wall than have the fusion of resources when confronting overwhelming odds in business, politics, and personal lives. I highly recommend this book. It'll be a fast read and quite rewarding.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of books like this one and others by Gladwell. I did not like this one as much as the others because I felt that it was too long for a book of its' nature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! Entertaining read. Profound and thought-provoking. Great insight into how we misperceive advantages and disadvantages and how too much power falls along a inverted U-curve, as do many things in life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I deeply enjoyed reading this book. The structure was incredibly crafted with very smooth transitions from one idea to the next, always tying in ideas that had already been discussed previously, and explaining the connections clearly. This lead to a building effect where the points were even further driven-home as the book continued. The sentences flowed together seamlessly allowing for a quick, easy read. The actual content matter of the book provoked lots of personal reflection and in-depth thinking trying to decipher the merit of what was being said. Each topic was controversial in its own right, but upon reading could be shown to be the truth of reality. The themes were consistent throughout every section each posing a paradox that the author would spend the rest of the chapter proving correct. The proof was offered in the form of at least one anecdote, including quotes from the interview, conducted by the author, of the individuals involved in the scenario. The paradox was then further proven using scientific studies and factual research done on the topic, which adds in a increased level of credibility to the authors claims. Every claim came with a underlying truth; although the paradox can be true, the scenarios where the paradox is true are nearly always required more work and hardship from the individual affected. Overall I deeply enjoyed reading this book and found it thought-provoking and intellectual, giving a clarity to the reality of the world.
KateUnger More than 1 year ago
David and Goliath is the third Malcolm Gladwell book that I’ve read. In this book Gladwell explores the myth of battling giants. His point is that what makes a giant so large and intimidating can also be the giant’s weakness. He starts the book with the Biblical story of David and Goliath, and then moves on to other interesting topics: classroom size, prestigious colleges, the cure for childhood leukemia, dyslexia, crime, etc. In every story, Gladwell reveals that what we believe to be true isn’t necessarily the case. This book is so fascinating. It makes for a perfect audiobook (read by Gladwell himself). It’s engaging, and I learned a lot. The first few chapters I believe are a must-read for all parents, especially those starting to think about where their children might attend college. http://opinionatedbooklover.com/review-david-and-goliath-by-malcolm-gladwell/
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easy to read, well written, and wonderfully documented
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Its been four days since Erik and i met. Erik, Blizzard, and i have been scraping by, but we were in desperate need of food and a good washup. All three of us. Our stomachs were growling loudly, and we stink. We also needed a change of clothes. Oh, what luck it would be to find an abandoned department store with a river next to it. That would be heaven. - "What are you thinking about?", Erik asked, studying me with his beautiful emerald-colored eyes. I grinned and said, "Just wishing we could get some food and a nice cleanup." He nodded in agreement, his golden honey hair bobbing. It had gotten longer and shaggier over the last few days. Now it was an inch past his chin. - After hours of walking through a valley, we finally stumbled across a busy road, the first sign of life we had seen in days. I doubled back to hide behind some bushes out of sight like Erik taught me. But neither he nor Blizzard made any move to join me. I called to them, but Erik motioned me to come on out. I did so reluctantly. - "No one is going to recognize us.", he said. "We are in another state." I had not known this, so i stared at him in disbelief. - He laughed and said, "Come on. Let us cross the road." I just looked at the cars passing by, knowing if we tryed to cross, we would get hit. Erik shook his head, grinning. "Aria, i pity you. Let me demonstrate." He turned towards the road, studying it. Then he suddenly ran through a gap between two cars. The next second, he was on the other side, unharmed. He pumped a fist into the air. - "Show off", i muttered, rolling my eyes. Then i did what he did. I studied the cars passing by, then ran between the gap of two cars. Then i grinned proudly as i walked towards Erik. My grin faltered as i saw Erik looking at me with an amazed expression. - "What?", i asked. He shook his head, causing his hair to bob. He was dumbfounded. "What?", i repeated, louder this time. "Um, er, well....", he began. Then he blurted, "You ran faster and more gracefully than-" He covered his mouth before he could say more. - "Than what?", i asked, impatient. Erik smiled and hesitated, then said, "Than a cheetah. And thats impossible for a human." I gaped, not quite believing him. Was he saying i wasnt human? Erik interrupted my thoughts. "Are you one of the Gifted?", he asked. I looked at him and said, "I dont know what that is." - Erik sighed and motioned for me to sit down. I did, and he sat next to me. "There is a small amount of people in the world who each have a unique power. Those people are called the Gifted. They are born randomly, so you can have two nonGifted people give birth to a Gifted child. But that is rare. And usually the child's power is more special than Gifted kids with a Gifted parent. You have a better chance of getting a Gifted child if one or both of the parents are Gifted. But since both your parents seem to be nonGifted, you are a rarity. Same with me. Im Gifted, but neither of my parents were. My power is dangerous but useful. I can create fire. I can shoot it out of my hands, or if i just look at something and picture it in my mind on fire, it will catch." Erik paused at my look of horror. Then he continued. "And your power is that you can run very very fast. That is a power only you have, while im the only one who can control fire. And you need to use it wisely." - When he was finished,i noticed Blizzard on the other side. I motioned for him to cross, since the road was clear. Then i thought about my Gift.
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Enjoyable, informative n thought provoking