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

Malcolm Gladwell
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 2013
Malcolm Gladwell, the #1 bestselling author of The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw, offers his most provocative---and dazzling---book yet.

Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then 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 have?

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, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.

Gladwell begins with the real story of what happened between the giant and the shepherd boy those many years ago. From there, David and Goliath 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.

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 storytelling to reshape the way we think of the world around us.

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David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants + The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference + Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
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Review

"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

About the Author

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

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts... Nov. 22 2013
By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I always look forward to a new book by Malcolm Gladwell; he consistently provides readers with awe-inspiring stories, profound insights and provocative ideas. Though some chapters piqued my interest more than others, overall "David and Goliath" successfully engages with its meditations on the archetypal battle between underdogs and top dogs.

Gladwell begins with a recap of the legendary tale of David and Golliath, introducing his main theme: some perceived disadvantages have unsung advantages while perceived advantages encompass overlooked disadvantages. An early chapter about a gritty middle school girl's basketball team contains intimations of a self-help manual but, when the author moves to an explanation of why being a being a big fish in a small pond predicts high achievement better than being a little fish in a big pond, it becomes clear that Gladwell's interest extends beyond simple templates for success.

The book probes into the nature of the underdog and tells the stories of fascinating and amazingly accomplished people: lawyer David Boies, IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad and leukaemia researcher Jay Freireich to name a few. It shows that stereotypical handicaps like learning disabilities and deprived childhoods can require a person to adapt to the world in ways that later give him/her the upper hand in professional life. Contrarily, those who have sailed through childhood enjoying every good fortune often become less well-equipped to deal with life’s inevitable challenges.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and educating book Oct. 5 2013
By A. Volk #1 REVIEWER #1 HALL OF FAME
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book begins with the classic tale of David versus Goliath. Traditionally interpreted as courage triumphing over great odds, Gladwell shows that this actually wasn't the case. Instead, it was in all likelihood Goliath who was in trouble. As anyone who's played Total War games knows, archers beat infantry and David was an archer with his sling. If he missed, he could just outrun Goliath, turn around and shoot again. Rinse and repeat until Goliath is dead. The huge, mighty, fearsome fighter Goliath was deadly, but there as a limit to his power. Which is essentially the theme of this book. Power, and in particular negative power, has limitations.

In particular Gladwell dwells on the counter-intuitive "inverted U" that underlies a lot of relationships. For example, adding punishment decreases crime, but is there a point at which applying too much punishment increases crime? Or being bombed is bad, but being nearly bombed can actually bolster one's moral as you realize you can survive something awful. Having smaller classes is good, but at some point smaller classes become worse for education. Going to an Ivy league school is good for some, but many more would benefit from not going to a top-level school. Gladwell also discusses how difficulties and challenges generate opportunities for some individuals to flourish. The harsh reality of losing a parent makes a minority of children even stronger, or at least more successful, than if they had never lost a parent.

This counter-intuitive kind of thinking is classic Gladwell, and it makes for an interesting yet informative read. There are a couple of issues I have with the book. First, there's more anecdotes and less science than in his previous books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Abook that need rather than wanted to be written Dec 30 2013
Format:Hardcover
There is nothing worse than seeing a live performance of your favorite recording artist and sensing that the magic is in the past.

This book's premise could have been fully explored in a 30 page article. I believe that Mr. Gladwell needed to write this book to fulfill contractual obligations rather than because he was overly inspired by the subject matter. It happens.

It was not tightly written nor particularly well reasoned. There was much repetition, seemingly to fill space. It reads like a second draft.

I loved Outliers and was therefore hoping that the thesis articulated in the story of David and Goliath would be deeply and richly explored. I was disappointed and half way through, I considered putting it down. I didn't; hoping that my trust in the author would be redeemed. Not this time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grreat Book! Feb. 18 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
This is an interesting book. I did think that Gladwell might be stretching the analogy a bit too much in some areas. However, overall, well worth reading and offers a different way to evaluate the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Always interesting and insightful! Feb. 12 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an interesting book. I did feel that Gladwell might be stretching his analogy a bit too much in some areas to make his arguments fit his thesis. However, overall, I appreciate the different perspectives he offered on how to evaluate the world.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I have read and reviewed all of Malcolm Gladwell's previous books and consider him to be among the most talented and energetic of journalists, with most of his work featured in The New Yorker. He also has superb storyteller skills. His "discoveries" tend to be well-known to those knowledgeable about the given subject. In The Tipping Point, for example, he discusses a phenomenon previous characterized by Michael Kami as a "trigger point" and later by Andrew Grove as an "inflection point." Or consider "the secret of success" that he discusses in The Outliers. For decades, Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University have been conducting research on peak performance. He duly acknowledges sources such as Ericsson and should be praised for attracting greater attention to the subjects he discusses. That is Gladwell's great value.

However, in his latest book, David and Goliath, he demonstrates faulty reasoning, such as what Christopher Chabris characterizes as "the fallacy of the unexamined premise." He also has problems with causal relationships and this is not the first time that Gladwell confuses "because" with "despite." For example, consider his assertion that attorney David Boies's great success is largely explained by the fact that he is dyslexic. Overcoming learning disabilities may have been - for Boies as well as countless others -- what Warren Bennis and David Thomas characterize as a "crucible" that strengthens and enlightens those who emerge from it.

In this context, I am reminded of the fact that one of the world's most renowned authorities on ADHD, Edward ("Ned") Hallowell, is an author of countless books and articles on the subject, a child and adult psychiatrist, and a New York Times bestselling author.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Great book, challening you to think differently about the world around you and what knowledge you take for given. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kintore
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Story Telling
As usual I enjoyed the Malcomb Gladwell novel. Malcolm seems to have the ability to bring together concepts through vibrant stories, getting his point across with relative ease. Read more
Published 1 month ago by The Kardigan Kid
5.0 out of 5 stars Malcolm Gladwell at his story telling best!
This book, like virtually all of Gladwell's writing, is the art of story telling practised as an art form. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rod Tyler
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful statement
A powerful statement showing that might and violence does not always win out. Verbal illustrations of the power of the human spirit. I very much liked the book
Published 2 months ago by Robert Pike
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy read
I have the rest of this guys books, and will purchase the next one he publishes. It a book that most men would like & it easy to read in a weekend.
Published 2 months ago by Bill Davies
5.0 out of 5 stars David and Goliath: Why David had the Advantage
Gladwell is an excellent writer and this book is no exception. Thought provoking, entertaining and challenging based on an interesting theory about why some people can overcome... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dr M F
4.0 out of 5 stars Another great Gladwell read
If you like Gladwell you will like this read. Not as strong as tipping point or outliers, it is still a very strong book with a exciting new look how disadvantages can become... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Brad
3.0 out of 5 stars good read
Started out strong, then the analogies and reference stories became repetitive. Good lessons on not to underestimate the David's of this world.
Published 2 months ago by Shail Paliwal
5.0 out of 5 stars Great audiobook
If you area fan of Malcolm Gladwell books, this latest one won't disappoint you. As I am on the road a lot, I prefer audiobooks - David & Goliath is a very interesting one to... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Andre Berdais
4.0 out of 5 stars David and Golliath
Easy to read with meaningful stories that give one a new look at history and also questions some of my previous beliefs about power and its use (and misuse).
Published 3 months ago by John K Thompson
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