MM6, February 27, 2015 (view all comments by MM6)
One of the most entertaining nonfiction books I've ever read. Gladwell has a gift for putting any idea in a new light you've likely not seen it in before. In David and Goliath is a tremendously convincing argument for the power of the underdog; Gladwell's amazing research and ability to keep the reader entertained throughout ever chapter makes this book a great read for anyone and everyone.
Rick Vigorous, November 15, 2014 (view all comments by Rick Vigorous)
This book is about underdogs and their hidden potential to come out on top despite the odds seeming to be stacked against them. As one has come to expect from Gladwell’s books, the prose is crisp and his examples smartly chosen and illustrative. In many cases the stories are delightfully counterintuitive, teaching us that what we assume to be advantages can often be anything but.
So how does David beat Goliath?
He can adopt an unconventional strategy, typically one that is less pleasant and involves more work. This was done by Lawrence of Arabia, who led his ragtag team of Bedouins on camelback through hundreds of miles of desert to launch an attack on the Turkish-held city of Aqaba that was as unexpected as the journey was dangerous.
David can become stronger by using so-called “desirable difficulties" to his advantage. This was done by a boy who was diagnosed with dyslexia, but turned his difficulty into something positive by becoming an amazing listener and eventually one of the greatest trial lawyers of his generation, virtuosic in his ability to exploit a weakness in a witness’s testimony and win an argument.
David can take advantage of the confidence that comes from emerging through hardship intact. This was done by the anomalously large number of prominent historical figures who lost a parent early in life. It was also done by the Huguenots, a French religious sect that successfully and openly gave refuge to a large number of Jews during World War II. When your own people have been persecuted for generations, defying Nazi orders and helping some refugees doesn’t seem so impossible.
Gladwell’s method of illustrating his point through stories is effective and makes for breezy reading, but at times he comes pretty close to making it sound as if being an underdog is usually an advantage, which of course would be contrary to the word’s very definition. Several times he asks, provocatively, “You wouldn’t want your child to be dyslexic, would you?” and then goes on to suggest that “You just might.” He proceeds to relate some inspiring anecdotes about people--the president of Goldman Sachs among them--who overcame this obstacle in amazing ways to achieve great professional success. The closest that he comes to giving any statistical evidence on this point is another anecdote in which someone describes informally polling a roomful of business executives, at least half of whom put their hands up when asked whether anyone had a learning disability. Gladwell eventually covers himself by mentioning that, for every dyslexic with an inspiring success story, there are many more who aren’t able to overcome their handicap in such a spectacular way and--much to nobody’s surprise--have a harder life because of it. Is dyslexia or losing a parent really a “desirable difficulty”? I don’t think that Gladwell is trying to convince anybody that they are or that underdogs usually win in life, but given the emphasis that he puts on stories where that’s exactly what happens, the casual reader could be forgiven for coming away with that impression.
writermala, May 31, 2014 (view all comments by writermala)
If I thought this was going to be an elaboration of the David and Goliath story I was mistaken. It was much more than that. Gladwell uses the story as a stating point to prove his premise that the "underdog" can oftentimes be the "Favorite." He uses examples of a School Basketball coach, the Civil Rights Movement, the conflict in Northern Ireland, an Oncologist, a couple of dyslexia sufferers, all to prove that adversity can be overcome and in fact used to achieve remarkable results. I was hooked right from Chapter 1, and stayed tuned till the very end. I agree with the author that "The powerful are not as powerful as they seem - nor the weak as weak."
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librariphile, October 27, 2013 (view all comments by librariphile)
There were times when I felt like Gladwell was cherry-picking scenarios to make his case about underdogs, but that didn't really take away from the enjoyment I got reading this book. It really surprised me how many times he described scenarios that happened to other people that I could relate to -- and now understand from a different perspective. I enjoyed Blink! and Tipping Point and look forward to the next thoughtful challenge he poses to an ordinary way of thinking.
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David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
0 stars -
Little Brown and Company -
by Michal D.,
Perceptive and surprising, Gladwell's new book illuminates the concepts of obstacles and adversity through moving and provocative stories. Demonstrating the unexpected or overlooked advantages to being disadvantaged, Gladwell once again offers an engaging and enlightening reinterpretation of a common perception.
by Michal D.
by Los Angeles Times,
"Truly intriguing and inspiring, especially when Gladwell discusses 'desirable difficulties'....Gladwell's account of the journey of Dr. Emil 'Jay' Freireich is unforgettable."
by San Francisco Chronicle,
"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."
by New York Times,
"As always, Gladwell's sweep is breathtaking and thought-provoking....I've long admired Gladwell's work."
by Wall Street Journal,
"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."
by Washington Post,
"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."
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