“David and Goliath” – Does Gladwell’s Ideas Hold Up?

Book Review: David and Goliath:
Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

By Malcolm Gladwell

Spoiler Alert!


 Malcolm Gladwell has explored the ways we understand and change our world. Now he looks at the complex and surprising ways the weak can defeat the strong, the small can match up against the giant, and how our goals (often culturally determined) can make a huge difference in our ultimate sense of success. Drawing upon examples from the world of business, sports, culture, cutting-edge psychology, and an array of unforgettable characters around the world, David and Goliath is in many ways the most practical and provocative book Malcolm Gladwell has ever written.

(Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

Controversy seems to surround Malcolm Gladwell and his approach to research, conclusions and writing. I happen to like Gladwell because he looks at anecdotal stories and data in a different way. Because he looks at the information differently it reminds me that even his conclusions are up for debate because there are still different way to see the same information. I also like Gladwell’s viewpoint because it reminds me that I can change the way I think and act.

In David and Goliath Gladwell begins by analyzing the biblical account of the young shepherd boy slaying the giant. His conclusion is that Goliath should have been very frightened when he saw a slinger running at him because of his immobility and inadequate weapons to defend against a stone shot out at terrific speed. The question arises, how do we approach our challenges? Do we accept the terms given to us or find our own gifts that will help us overcome challenges in a new way.

Here are types of questions that Gladwell posses in David and Goliath:

Can a basketball team of 12 year old girls without a lot of talent regularly beat teams that are more talented with coaching from a father who never has played the game?

Is it true that smaller class size is indicative of a successful experience?

Is an Ivy League school or a state university a better fit for a science student to learn and find a successful career?

Can people with dyslexia have successful careers that normally require a lot of reading?

What would make it possible for a physician to break all social constraints in a conservative profession to try experiments that could lead to medical breakthroughs?

What is the psychological effect of a near miss?

How can an oppressed minority gain rights?

When does an authority figure or government become effective in helping those marginalized by society?

How does revenge and forgiveness play a continuing part in reducing or increasing crime?

How did a small group of dissenters escape retribution from the Nazi officials while they openly gave Jews refuge in France?

I was much more engaged in the first 200 pages than the last 75. I didn’t feel like solutions to prevent crime were adequately explained. As a society we are in a hard spot because we cannot allow criminals on the street and yet we know that many will come out of prison more hardened than when they entered. Recently on the news there was a 17 year old girl who drove the car while her boyfriend shot another boy. She said she was under duress that her family would be harmed if she didn’t follow her boyfriend’s plan. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison. I’m not sure that her sentence serves the community. I also have no clear insight of what to do in these difficult problems.

One of my favorite stories was on dyslexia. I’ve always said I have hearing dyslexia, because I don’t hear numbers in the correct order and sometimes mix up letters when speaking quickly. I’ve helped children with learning disorders and have often noticed that rather than a problem, they have a gift to see the world differently. Who will solve problems if we don’t have people with the gift to see? I would love to see schools teach “strategies” instead of one way or multiple ways that each must be mastered. Our brains are amazing tools and each person needs to learn the strategies that will help them learn and grow.

3.75 out of 5 stars
4 star

– Michelle

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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