Book Review: David and Goliath

david-goliathMalcolm Gladwell. David and Goliath : underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants. Little, Brown and Company, 2013. Also available as a Kindle eBook and an audiobook.

Master storyteller Malcolm Gladwell’s newest bestseller is a series of remarkable tales of ordinary people who face overwhelming challenges and are forced to respond.  He explains that powerful people may not be as omnipotent as they first appear; and that sometimes disabilities or disadvantages can leave people stronger and wiser.

Gladwell begins his book with the bible story, the battle between the giant and the shepherd boy.  He explains that Goliath’s massive size is no match for David’s speed and agility, that by changing the terms of the battle from physical might to precision and maneuverability, David’s size and skills become assets and he turns the giant’s strengths into weaknesses.  In other stories, Gladwell shows how families or institutions with prestige and resources can enrich and engage us, yet too much of those advantages can limit our options, make us lose ambition, or hurt our confidence.  More is not always better and not all difficulties are negative, particularly for people who develop attributes to overcome them, such as courage, resourcefulness and tenacity.

There are negative reviews of Gladwell’s David and Goliath, from critics who claim that the book lacks evidence and logic.  Gladwell uses science to back his conclusions using studies with small sample sizes that cannot be replicated.  But even the critics admit that readers will enjoy the colorful stories of people who overcome great difficulties and they will appreciate the historical contexts of the Battle of Britain, U.S. civil rights movement, the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland and many others.  Recommended.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
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