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Every few years, Malcolm Gladwell publishes a fascinating, engaging book on an overarching sociological concept. He started in 2000 with "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference," defining that point as "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point." Gladwell isn't creating trends, as the subjects of his 2008 book "Outliers: The Story of Success" do. Gladwell, after extensive research, gives the concepts names and stories everyone can understand.
"David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants" (2013) is a collection of stories about people who do things differently, either because they are different or because they have no choice but to ignore 'conventional wisdom' to fight and win. Gladwell provides many examples of underdogs using unconventional warfare: Irish Catholics; a girl's under 12 basketball coached by a dad who'd never played the game; The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and the American Civil Rights Movement . . .
By illustration, Gladwell tells the story of Emil Freireich, an oncologist and an incredible social misfit in the pediatric oncology ward he worked in. Dr. Freireich's inability to let emotions into his work - and his ability to think beyond common practices - made him instrumental in finding cures for childhood leukemia. Hundreds of thousands of people owe their lives to a man with the bedside manner of a gruff truck driver who has had one too many coffees and still has five hundred miles to go before the sun rises again.
Gladwell also points out the loss that can happen when someone tries to fit in the wrong place and wrong time. He illustrates that concept using a woman who went to an Ivy League university and lost her passion for science among all the 'big fish' in the competitive shark classes. If she'd gone to a state university, which actually had more qualified, published professors, she would be living her dream now. I have two teenagers, and that resonated with me. My oldest, inculcated by the mantra of 'you must get into A Good College', wonders if I know what I'm talking about when I tell him I want him to find a school that's good for him. Now I've got backup.
Gladwell's books are occasionally fiercely criticized by the scientific community, because they are too general; or because someone believes he has misinterpreted studies and data. Those are valid points, but Gladwell isn't writing a peer reviewed article for publication in "Evolutionary Behavioral Science". He's writing for everyone, not just PhD's and MD's, and he's writing to start a conversation, not answer all questions.
I've heard Gladwell in interviews, but this is the first Audible Gladwell book I've listened to. (I have the rest of in hardback, and my favorite is 2005's "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.") Gladwell is a great narrator.
The Audible comes with a PDF file with a photo Gladwell discusses extensively in the book; charts and graphs; and footnotes.
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419 of 437 people found this review helpful
Would you try another book from Malcolm Gladwell and/or Malcolm Gladwell?
Malcolm Gladwell always finds interesting anecdotes and back stories to entertain the reader and provoke thought. I don't always agree with his conclusions, but the least of his writings are still pretty good.
If you’ve listened to books by Malcolm Gladwell before, how does this one compare?
Outliers is a 5 of 5 and many of the examples in this book (the 10,000 hour rule, the Matthew Effect) have become essential concepts of cultural literacy. I would recommend that readers new to Gladwell begin with this book.
Which scene was your favorite?
As a parent with high school and college aged children, I found the big fish in a small pond chapter to be the most interesting.
Do you think David and Goliath needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?
I would read anything that Gladwell writes. He always has a fresh perspective. This is just not quite as good as some of his other work.
Any additional comments?
Malcolm Gladwell is clearly very talented at presenting complex ideas in a simple way, but sometimes he seems to over-simplify, draw facile conclusions, or cherry pick his data to support his conclusions. I agree with many of his conclusions, but I would advise readers to bring their own critical thinking skills to one of his books.
I do want to say that with the chapter on Dr. Freirich was pretty disturbing and I felt Gladwell seemed to feel that the end justified the means, which I considered to be debatable.
74 of 78 people found this review helpful
I have listened to this book twice now. It is simply sensational. Read it. Do not question whether you should. You should.
Would you consider the audio edition of David and Goliath to be better than the print version?
I love the way Gladwell tells stories and induces theories from the stories. I don't always agree with his theories - they sound convincing but they're just theories - but I love the way he communicates and makes me think.
I really good listen.