In a lot of ways David and Goliath is a lot like its title, its a battle of two very different pieces. The first half of David of Goliath is excellent. The stories are engaging and the theme stays close to Gladwell's main thesis. The second half of David and Goliath doesn't seem to follow the same tightly constructed argument. Gladwell seems to go off on tangents and only at the end of his examples does he try and make an parallels to the underdog.
I really did enjoy David and Goliath but will have been far more impressed had the book remained as good as its first handful of chapters. The idea that David might not have been an underdog was fascinating and I would have liked to have seen that explored more then the diversions that happen later in the book. All things being equal I thought David and Goliath was an extremely entertaining read but not one I would want to go back to.
Malcolm Gladwell typically provides highly interesting insights and food for thought challenging popular perceptions. The best example in this book is the title story of David and Goliath. He shows quite persuasively that David was no innocent shepherd boy, but a highly skilled variant of a well-known military fighter of his time: the “slinger” who attacked his opponent from a distance with well-directed and lethal stones from a slingshot. He caught Goliath by surprise, but his weapon and role were not that great a surprise.
That said, Mr. Gladwell does make a couple of claims in this book that in my mind were not well-founded. The first related to the supposed strategic mistakes made by the British Army in Northern Ireland in the early 1970’s in trying to bring peace to that troubled region. The second is his claim that the California “Three Strikes” law eventually proved harmful to the state. I think the Northern Ireland conclusion is overdrawn. Yes, the British made many mistakes in that peacekeeping role. However, I do not believe they were the strategic dunderheads that Mr. Gladwell suggests they were. They had a very difficult problem, with IRA terrorists on one side and extremist Ulster “orangemen” on the other. In the case of the California “Three Strikes” law, I live in California. I voted for Three Strikes and believe it has played an important role in bringing down California crime rates. Has it been too severe in particular cases? Yes. Does it have room for improvement? Also yes. But has it been a mistake overall? I think not and respectfully disagree with Mr. Gladwell on his conclusion.
I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!
I understand that people who write books for a living have to keep generating ideas for new material. This must be very taxing, and I guess this is why there exists the concept of ‘writer’s block’. When Malcolm Gladwell sat down and starting scratching out this latest offering I think he was probably struggling a bit and scraping towards the bottom of the barrel.
He’s written some really good works that change the way his readers think about the world. In ‘the Tipping Point’ we learnt what factors combine to make something ‘go viral’, a la Gangnam Style. In ‘Blink’ we saw how adept humans are at making intuitive judgements in milliseconds with limited information, and in Outliers we realised that successful people are often winners because of arbitrary lucky factors rather than pure talent. In David and Goliath I’m not too sure what we learn, and if there is a core message in there, it’s a bit tenuous and foggy.
The basic idea of the book is that underdogs often prevail against the odds, and that this is the result of a number of factors such as: they break the rules; they aren’t afraid to do unpopular things; they are the products of difficult childhoods with ‘desirable difficulties’ such as dyslexia; their enemies underestimate them and misunderstand the use of power. These messages are intertwined with some quack pseudo-psychological theories, such as the notion that when the British Army were in Northern Ireland they didn’t realise they were on the ‘downside of the inverted u’.
There is some good stuff in this book. There are some insights that I could imagine being relevant to me in some future situation in my life, and the book was enjoyable because of the fascinating human interest stories that Gladwell tells so well, but there are too many generalisations and oversimplifications of complex issues which the author-narrator manipulates to fit his theory, whatever that may be.
The book got off to a very strong start, which continued until the final couple of hours. At that point, the discussion about Northern Ireland and medical research destroyed the arc of the story.
l'enfer c'est les autres
A good book splendidly read by the author. The theme is catching. Most chapters start off with a misdirection, and I'm thinking the author's thesis is wrong. For example, small class sizes do make a difference, I think. The author presents data that seems to contradict that assertion, but really doesn't. The author at the last moment will say maybe not and will show you why it's probably not true. He does that multiple times. Most of his original assertions I didn't like but by the end I did.
Another thing, he writes the stories such that I wished I was born poor, or at least had dyslexia because he makes those seem so desirable. That of corse is silly.
Look, the book is an easy listen and is fun but is not as good as his other books. I don't really recommend this one, but I was disappointed.
I have enjoyed reading Malcolm Gladwell's books. His research and insight on topics is extremely enlightening because his depth of research so intimate. His analysis of David, from David and Goliath, helped me understand what skills David possessed to slay a Giant. It's just something I never learned from great preaching.
I enjoyed his stories as always. His points were thought provoking. Although I agree with his conclusion, I think he stretched the available evidence on the three strikes law to fit his conclusion. Still, it was an enjoyable read and it helped me to see the world in a different way.
I have listened to the reading of this book at a time when I am facing a giant in my own life. This is a timely and assuring book on how to face your biggest fight and win. I strongly recommend the book to any one who is leading and care about how to encourage the people under the person's influence. Excellent book for any audience. Thanks for the inspiration.
David and Goliath is a culmination of fantastical stories that make you consider what an advantage really is and if a disadvantage is truly a handicap. I encourage you to read through this book, take notes and reference the real-life examples that Malcolm Gladwell talks about. These stories from Shepherd boy to Dr. King to Nazi resistance help us understand how truly capable we can be even though the world may see us as incapable.