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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, October 2013 - Get ready to have your view of the world turned upside down. Malcolm Gladwell - best-selling author of Blink, The Tipping Point, and Outliers - returns to present new ways of looking at why being among the advantaged is not always advantageous. David & Goliath explores the \"art of battling giants\" through the personal accounts of underdogs and misfits whose wild success stories are often falsely considered flukes. This is not a sentimental celebration of good things happening to good people. In true Gladwellian fashion, the real reasons behind so many pull-from-behind wins are completely unexpected. And if you've ever heard any of the author's many speaking engagements you know to expect a lively listening experience with Gladwell narrating the book himself. —Tricia, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Winner, Non-Fiction, 2014

Malcolm Gladwell, the number-one best-selling 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 best sellers, David and Goliath draws upon history, psychology, and powerful storytelling to reshape the way we think about the world around us.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2013 Malcolm Gladwell (P)2013 Hachette Audio

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  • Cynthia
  • Monrovia, California, United States
  • 10-04-13

The Art of (Unconventional) War

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

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Listen with a Critical Ear

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

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Another new perspective on life

Malcom Gladwell makes me a smarter person. With every book there is a new explanation of what is commonly understood as a universal fact - - that he convincingly explains is just plain wrong. With this book, I've learned that being "disadvantaged" may be my strategic advantage. Very cool.

As a narrator, Gladwell comes well armed with research and facts, but delivers it in such a cool and calm low-key way, that as he's explaining how silly you've been for believing what seems like common sense, it's not one bit insulting.

Be prepared to revel in being "the underdog" and in discovering that giants really aren't that scary.

56 of 61 people found this review helpful

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Classic Gladwell... A fascinating perspective.

What did you like best about this story?

Malcolm Gladwell sees the world through the eyes of an objective observer. He takes nothing at face value and in this book, he takes us behind the scenes of some well known, and unknown underdog stories.

The fun thing about this book is that for most people the title would simply be a symbol of the little guy who doesn't stand a chance against some unbeatable giant, but Gladwell sees this classic story from an entirely different perspective. He shows us that *David* was clearly the superior fighter. He breaks it down so clearly that you see that Goliath simply didn't have a chance.

Once he establishes this fundamental shift in perspective, he then dives into a series of stories of people who succeed not in spite of their adversities... but because of them.

As always, Galdwell doesn't just base his positions on his own opinion, but based upon intensive research. For example, in a study of the greatest leaders of all time, he made a list of all of the people in the Encyclopedia Britannica who had more than two columns written about them. He then researched every name in the list to determine the percentage of them who lost a parent at a young age and was able to demonstrate that a disproportionate number of great leaders had indeed been from shattered families.

I was particularly interested in his research in education, where he demonstrated solid reasons why emphasis on smaller class sizes and affirmative action were off target, and why aiming for Ivy League schools isn't always in the best interest of the student.

Above all, Malcolm Gladwell has delivered another classic book that simply makes you think outside the box. In this particular book, he also makes it easier for you to look adversity in the eye and say... "thanks".

43 of 47 people found this review helpful

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  • Kevin
  • Grant, MI, United States
  • 10-02-13

Gladwell does it again!

What was one of the most memorable moments of David and Goliath?

Gladwell really puts the inverted U curve into easy-to-understand words that we can easily map to our own lives and turns conventional wisdom about getting into the best college you can on its head; I no longer regret going to a small, unknown school at which I could easily excel instead of getting lost at a more prestigious school.

What about Malcolm Gladwell’s performance did you like?

His voice is simultaneously passionate and soothing, and he plays it like a master. A Gladwell book without Gladwell's narration just wouldn't be the same.

23 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • Ernest
  • BROOKLYN, NY, United States
  • 10-03-13

One of Gladwell's Best!!

Would you listen to David and Goliath again? Why?

I would. David and Goliath was extremely informative and as usual with Gladwell's books creates a different way to think of the world that has practical applications with everyday life.

What other book might you compare David and Goliath to and why?


Which character – as performed by Malcolm Gladwell – was your favorite?

I loved the story about why going to an Ivy League school may be bad for you or your child.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes. I could not put it down

Any additional comments?

It is a book that will deliver.

18 of 22 people found this review helpful

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Where does David and Goliath rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

As with proven time and again in his previous books, Gladwell is a great story teller. The same holds true with David and Goliath. However, these stories felt less connected than in other books.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I enjoyed the early chapter regarding the choice of college.

Have you listened to any of Malcolm Gladwell’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Yes. It ranks a little lower for me than Tipping Point and Blink.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?


13 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

I enjoy Malcolm Gladwell's books, always an interesting take on topics and proves his point with story after story. This gets a 4 from me only because it was only 7 hours long and I wasn't satiated. I had to turn around and read it again the next day. Can I just point out that there is a small PDF file next to the book in the library. It contains a easy to find picture that you will want to see... look at it before you listen to the book and then go back and look at it again afterward... you will see two different pictures.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • CBlox
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • 10-25-13

Entertaining and refreshing!

Malcolm Gladwell does it again. like all of his previous books David and Goliath has been well researched using stories most of us haven't heard or considered before now. I enjoy the way Gladwell takes his reader on a roller-coaster ride of altering conclusions. After listening I purchased the hardcover as soon as I could as the author gives graphs, diagrams and photos to enhance the experience.

Trust me, you wont stop talking to friends and family about this book. Galdwell delivered in his narration as well.

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11 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Tansel
  • BETHESDA, MD, United States
  • 10-04-13

Uplifting Gladwell Classic

I am biased! I already listened to most of Gladwell books and I was looking forward to this book. I was supposed to like the book from the start. However, until the last quartile of the book, I was seeing it as collection of works of Gladwell with interesting points of each chapter, some of them reminding me Solomon's "Far from the Tree". My own gauge of a good book is that how much the book is changing my viewpoint of the world and how it impacts the way I talk with my friends and family. Gladwell succeeds at the end with his solid arguments on seemingly unrelated stories. I will not attempt to summarize his main points but just a quick thanks to him for being the narrator of his own book because I was given more of the gift of listening than reading.

20 of 26 people found this review helpful

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  • Steve
  • 12-05-16

Stunning insights

I have listened to this book twice now. It is simply sensational. Read it. Do not question whether you should. You should.

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  • CC
  • 11-12-13

Loved it

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.