Monday, September 13, 2021

Book Review: David And Goliath

David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants 

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Publisher: Little, Brown And Company, hardcover, 305 pages, including: Acknowledgments, Notes, and Index

The Author

At the time of this publication, Malcolm Gladwell has been on staff at The New Yorker since 1996. Prior to that, he was a reporter at the Washington Post.Gladwell was born in England and grew up in rural Ontario. He lives in New York. In addition to David And Goliath, he is also the author of other volumes, including: What the Dog Saw, Outliers, Blink, and The Tipping Point—all are on the New York Times best sellers list


This volume contains the following: Introduction, Part One: The Advantages Of Disadvantages Of Advantages, Part Two: The Theory Of Desirable Difficulty, Part Three: The Limits Of Power. Each of the Parts consist of two or three chapters. 

Brief Observations

In his Introduction, Gladwell makes the case for David having an advantage over Goliath because of his fighting method. David surprised Goliath—and likely everyone else—by his fighting method of using a sling-shot and moving around, rather than using other common weapons and remaining in a standing position against his opponent. According to Gladwell, in addition to traditional weapons and fighting tactics, sling-shots were also periodically used successfully. David then, by thinking and acting “outside the box” utilized what most believed was a disadvantage as an advantage, thus killing Goliath, thought by most to be the better warrior. Most of this volume presents several illustrations of thinking and acting “outside the box.” 

Whether it was Vivek Ranadivé who knew very little about basketball and tried things that no one else even dreamt; or teacher Teresa DeBrito who discovered she had the most fun teaching a class of 29 kids; or Caroline Sacks who would have remained in science if she had chosen to attend the University of Maryland rather than Brown University; Gladwell emphasizes the advantages of commonly held disadvantages. 

The volume covers such concepts as the inverted-U curve, and theories like desirable difficulty. 

In his chapter four, Gladwell’s discussion of Gary Cohn was ethically problematic for this reviewer. Cohn lied about his knowledge of options trading in order to get a job on Wall Street (see especially pp. 122-124). If one lies in order to be employed, will one also continue to lie on the job? Some people who are successful telling lies do continue to lie because they believe that they can get away with it. If they do, they can even lose their perspective, and become unable to distinguish between the truth and the lie. 

The two closing chapters are perhaps the best. Gladwell cites the example of Wilma Derksen and her struggle with and journey towards forgiveness; and Pastor André Trocmé’s courage to put his faith into action by hiding and saving Jews in Le Chambon during World War II. 

Those readers who appreciate and/or are underdogs and misfits shall find this volume encouraging and beneficial. 

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