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Gladwell’s “David and Goliath” Delivers Colossal Letdown

I always feel smarter after reading a Malcolm Gladwell book. That’s why I was looking forward to his newest release,  “David and Goliath” is all about examining the obstacles, circumstances and occasions where the disadvantaged triumph over the bigger, smarter, more capable opponent, causing a seemingly-improbable victory. However, it falls short of the usual wow-factor that Gladwell’s other books such as “Outliers”, “The Tipping Point” and “Blink”, have.

“David and Goliath” tries too hard. The strong numbers and anecdotes that Gladwell typically uses to back up his evidence just aren’t there. The statistics he provides are interpreted in a way that support what he’s trying to prove but are based on controversial methods of gathering data, like standardized tests. They help to support what Gladwell is trying to prove, but not without raising a few questions of the validity.

The book is also disjointed and confusing in sections. The longest section of  “David and Goliath” about the use and abuse of discipline and power doesn’t flow. It’s not because of Gladwell’s abrupt and formal writing, but because of the lack of connection between the variety of stories he uses and their application to the idea he is trying to convey.

Another major issue I had while reading this particular book was that Gladwell’s whole idea is showing that the underdog can win, but not all of the book seemed to stay on topic.

Losing a parent, having a learning disability, a troubled childhood, or a near death experience are disadvantages that Gladwell uses and they fit with the idea of what the underdog is capable of. Gladwell uses the civil war in Ireland, an out-of-control kindergarten classroom and the murder of a child, all of which simply made me more confused about why this gives a person or group of people an advantage. It just didn’t fit with the rest of the book. Take out these chapters and sections, and the book would have made much more sense and been more cohesive.

What I did understand was that I am going to rule the world one day or at least be obscenely rich   because I have the same learning pattern as some  of the most powerful people in the world. None of us could read proficiently until we had reached higher grade levels. These people  coincidentally have learning disabilities, but develop other skills to compensate.


“David and Goliath” is not as strong as Gladwell’s other books, but that does not mean that this is an intriguing book that provides with me a multitude of weird factoids I can file away so that occasionally I appear superior in conversations. This is an  interesting topic to me and  to examine what it really means to be “the underdog” and he offers alternative views and interpretations to events and phenomena that we often either overlook or take for granted. I learned new things from “David and Goliath” about history, science, the justice system, politics and curing childhood cancer.

It holds true with Gladwell’s style;  I pause in the middle of reading to tell whichever person is closest to me what interesting tidbit of information that Gladwell is describing, whether they want to hear it or not. The subject and examples that Gladwell writes about are interesting and people should know about them, but still this doesn’t deliver the amount of quotable information that Gladwell’s other books do.

All of the information is relatable and I can see its importance in everyday life. It makes me want to keep reading to see how Gladwell develops and intertwines all of his different examples and stories into the one idea then showing how they all support and build off each other. And not only does this allow me to see people and events in a different light, but pick up on things that happen in my own world that can be explained by Gladwell.

“David and Goliath” may not dazzle like any Gladwell’s other works but it does raise some interesting ideas and you will learn at least one new thing. If you are looking for some Gladwell’s better work then consider one of his other books.

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