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

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316204361
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 10/01/2013
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 184,727
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.26(h) x 1.07(d)

About the Author

Malcolm Gladwell has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1996. He is the host of the podcast Revisionist History and 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.


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 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 121 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
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
David and Goliath was the first book I read by Malcolm Gladwell, and it was a treat. Being a senior in high school college is always a topic for discussion and more specifically whether you will be able to get into the school of specific desire. After reading David and Goliath and the examples presented by Gladwell through out the book, I felt as if I could conquer any feat. From dyslexic millionaires to finding life changing cures for illnesses Gladwell describes it all. However, the part I found the most interesting was Caroline Stack's and her college decision. To not give away the entire story, Gladwell basically establishes choosing the "right" college is not always the most prestigious, but rather the one that best fits the individual--a thought that was somewhat relieving to a high school senior. As the book progressed I found it to become a bit repetitive. After the first six chapters I had fully grasped Gladwell's idea of beating the odds when they are not in your favor.    
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NAME~ David Kenneth Matthews <br>AGE~ 17, birthday is August 3. <br>GENDER: ._. <br>Appearances: short black hair, often wild after flying. Gray eyes, shades change with mood. Dark stormy gray when angry, light gray when happy, etc. Skin is lightly tanned. Strong, athletic build, due to many forms of martial arts training. Usually wears gray tee-shirts, but sometimes is seen in black and various shades of blue, red or green. Always in blue jeans and either gray or tan hiking boots or gray sneakers. Wings are raven black and will shine with emerald green and dark violet hues in the sun, wingspan is 18 feet (I think. I'm not good at judging lengths/distances o.o). <br>PERSONALITY: friendly, fun-loving, kind, protective, funny, (other, get to know him.) <br>CRUSH: I keep crushes secret... <br>FRIENDS: Acea, Ornirah, Warren, <br>OTHER: parents are Kale and Brielle from the book 'Galdoni' by Cheree Alsop. :3