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on 25 May 2014
Gladwell has a formula: he picks a grand thesis - in this case that what are ordinarily perceived of as disadvantages might not be wholly negative - and then carefully arranges around it anecdotes of such simple humanity that one is forced, between dabbing the tears away and spontaneous rounds of applause, to swallow the damn thing whole.

There's a circle of scientific hell set aside for those who build their theses from anecdotes and artfully chosen evidence. However, people love anecdotes and when skilfully done it can bamboozle the critical faculties of the audience like a well rehearsed magic trick. The problem is, in David and Goliath, the patter seems a bit more forced, Gladwell fluffs the shuffle and we can, quite clearly, see a dove's head poking out of his sleeve and cooing insistently.

The anecdotes drag out a bit too long, to the extent that you start to wonder not only what the point is, but whether there's a point at all. Sometimes the point is separated so distantly from the anecdote that a quick flick back through the book is necessary. When that happens, the author has lost control and the effect falls to pieces. Gladwell relies so heavily on effect rather than a coherent argument that if we don't buy into it completely, we don't buy into it at all.

That's not to say that there's nothing in the book worth reading. There are some excellent paradoxical nuggets of insight and he still has a knack for taking something familiar - like the story of David and Goliath, which opens the book - and giving you a whole new way of looking at it. He also has a collection of stories about people that are fascinating in their own right.

So, yes, there are high points scattered through the book, but the whole seems half finished as if he didn't have the time to properly gather his thoughts together before committing them to the printer.
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on 5 November 2013
There is no doubt that Gladwell is an entertaining writer and parts of this book are fun to read. However, as with "Tipping Point" I got half way through and thought this is repeating the same fairly obvious point again and again. I was also put off by his very one sided account of the early days of the Northern Ireland troubles. Some of what he says is true, some statements are sweeping without a shred of evidence, and the whole piece needs to be put into a proper historical context - otherwise it could be misleading, particularly to an American audience.
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on 25 January 2014
“David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell is not only what its name is suggesting - the book about how small can beat big, those that are considered to be less capable those who are the stars – but also a book that convinces the reader that there are no unbridgeable obstacles, and strange nature of our advantages and disadvantages that can easily become its opposite.

Malcolm Gladwell is an excellent writer who knows how to tell a story and although much of what he says is known he manages to entertain and intrigue readers to the extent that we don’t even notice we are walking the trodden track.

The author starts with the premise that the advantages are invented term - we are taught to see some ability or characteristic as good or beneficial, trying to gather or obtain it as much as possible in order to feel more capable and valuable not thinking that at some point what we consider the advantage (such as earning large amounts of money) at some point can become our nightmare since we became the target of thieves, our lives became more public and we don’t have the ability to be what we are, but what all others expect from us that we are.

He continues with another lesson that some disadvantage may eventually become our advantage, either in a way that is commonly called positive discrimination - for example when you are born with some disability you’ll receive in many things a right of priority - or unusual statistical regularity that people who suffer from medical conditions such as dyslexia are still becoming successful because their condition forced them to develop their other abilities to compensate reading problems that eventually led them to be successful.

He also reviews the situation that many famous and successful people throughout history and even today grew up without one parent what is considered a big handicap and the reason why young person will not grow into a fully emotionally developed person. Still what can be seen is that these persons become emotionally stronger individuals because they suffered such a heavy loss in youth and therefore much earlier harden and become ready for an intense game of life in which they are able to achieve better results.

As you can see from these few examples, the author presents the somewhat controversial topics, or the way he treats them, but his writing skills are undeniable and his conclusions are presented in a meaningful and compelling way.

With “David and Goliath” Malcolm Gladwell succeeded to make reader rethink about the nature of terms advantages and disadvantages; his book is not without flaws, far from it, but you will not believe how quickly and easily, with enjoyment, you will read its three hundred pages.
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on 5 August 2014
I could forgive Gladwell his sweeping generalisations, backed up in some cases by no evidence whatsoever, up until the chapter about the conflict in Northern Ireland. I was appalled to see a respected writer give such a one sided and misleading account of a very complex and destructive situation (on BOTH sides!). Either his research was seriously flawed or he chose to ignore the more inconvenient facts in order, ironically, to legitimise his theory about legitimacy.
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on 4 January 2014
I am a big Gladwell fan generally, but, while I found this book to be a good read, it is not without flaws ( in my opinion).

On the plus side, Gladwell has yet again delivered a book that is so well written that it us difficult to put down. Its upbeat, easy tone makes easy work of what could quite easily be a dull read at the hands if another writer. The book is full of interesting anecdotes and covers numerous topics, from the birth of Impressionism to aspects of the civil rights struggle.

However, I found it lacking in a number of ways. (Spoiler alert). I found a lot of the section about Goliath himself to be pure speculation. He claims scientists now believe that Goliath suffered from a growth disorder and may have been partially sighted. I think he would have better made his point if his arguments were based on facts and not speculation about events thousands of years ago. Secondly, while a lot if the topics covered are fascinating, the book is a bit disjointed and jumps back and forth between anecdotes. I found some of his remarks distasteful and flippant also. In a chapter relating to resistance against the Nazis, Gladwell notes 'there are real limits to what evil and misfortune can accomplish' . Try telling that to the families of the six million people who were slaughtered. He also cites a lady who felt se had to forgive the paedophile murderer if her child, because her best friend is into S&M and it would be hypocritical to forgive her frend's fetish for bondage but not to forgive the murderer's. This seems like a ridiculous statement. How are the acts I two consenting adults comparable to the kidnapping and murder of a child. On a lighter note, a Spanish saying is both spelled and translated incorrectly.

Overall it was an enjoyable but flawed read, in my view. If you like Gladwell , I think you will like this; just maybe not as much as his voter books.
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on 21 December 2013
I love reading Malcolm Gladwell books. He's an incredibly compelling writer, and this book is no different. It's an interesting and thought-provoking book. However, as with some of his previous writings, it completely lacks the rigour to be taken seriously. In virtually every chapter he states a non-obvious point, but then tells a single, non-representative story to back it up. Which is great for helping you understand what he's saying, but certainly not enough if you're thinking critically to believe it.
Overall, if you're looking for a fun read buy this book, but if you're looking to learn the "art of battling giants", this isn't going to do it. And since that's part of the title, this book only earns 2-stars.
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on 31 May 2014
This is the third book I read by Gladwell. The first few chapters were really interesting and moving. But when he started talking about Belfast and France in the Second World War, the examples don't prove anything. Sorry only 3 stars .
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on 24 November 2014
This is the third book by Malcolm Gladwell that I have read, so I had an inkling of what was to come. And in that I was not disappointed! Gladwell starts from a well-known story of an underdog triumphing (no, hold on, THE well-known story of an underdog .....) and moves on from there. True to past books, it is a tour of trends from many different disciplines, and looks at what makes an underdog, and what are advantages and disadvantages. There is more to this than you might think.

From the David vs Goliath point of view, Gladwell asks “who is the underdog?” From the conventional point of view, it is David: young, inexperienced and in almost every way a perfect loser. However, the conventional point of view is, like it or not, from the view-point of Goliath. It is a Goliath view of the world. David did not fight by the conventional rules – the very armour that he tried to wear was a huge encumbrance to him. So he discarded it, and fought with what he knew and was accomplished with. A sling and 5 stones.

The big does not always prevail over the small. It is surprising that in wars between countries with a very significant difference in population size (of the order of 10:1), the ‘big’ wins in only just over 2/3 of the instances. It is this that goes to the heart of the nine individual stories in this volume. Yes, there are many more than nine stories in this book, but each chapter has a headline story. These range from basketball coaches to students choosing collages, and Brer Rabbit behaviour from the civil rights movement in the American South.

Read this book. It may help you understand some of the things that go on in and around your own life, introduce you to the inverted U curve, and a whole lot besides. More importantly, it could assist you to identify opportunities to overcome when in a “David and Goliath” situation, by thinking in a different way. If you read about seeming disadvantages being used in an advantageous way, and harnessing the power this brings, it could help you not to be a goliath yourself, and not to think as Goliath yourself.

Dyslexia seems to have some advantages, and many who win out in life have lost one or both parents before the age of 16. Would I wish either of these circumstances on people I know (especially close family). Here the answer is a resounding ‘no’! But if there are adverse circumstances, that does not necessarily mean that the situation is hopeless. THAT is the optimism of this volume.

Peter Morgan (morganp@supanet.com)
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on 4 July 2015
This book was a disappointment.
I bought it after I heard an interview with the author on Jon Stewart's #DailyShow. The interview was interesting and I expected a lot of the book.

The book examins the situations in which davids win against goliaths - interesting.

It tells stories of basketball coaches with weak teams, London bombings during WWII, and pioneering (controversial) medical research - also interesting.
It draws some interesting conclusions as to what makes davids capable of winning - very interesting.

But it is also unstructured. Not every chapter draws a conclusion or two chapters draw the same one. The writing is repetitive. The argumentation lacks discipline (no matter what you do, you can not call 51% an overwhelming majority) and the parallels the author resorts to are farfetched (bored and unruly school children and the war in Northern Ireland to make a point about authority? Really?). I think the topic would much benefit from trimming the text to fit an article or an essay. Maybe that would force the auhor to destil his thesis and arguments and present them clearly.
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on 6 December 2013
I'm a big fan of Gladwell especially his short stories and articles in The New Yorker. David and Goliath is a compelling analogy for the world in which we live today and had the making of a great book but I feel Gladwell fell short of the book's (and the point he set out to prove) true potential.

The premise that the small can take on the big and mighty and win in today's fast paced and rapidly changing world is compelling. But his book fails to inspire and that is a disappointment. The premise had been well laid out early in the book and I expected it to progress to great current day learnings but the entire book labours a point that most readers will get and agree with early on. Gladwell would then have done better to show the learnings and pitfalls of the analogy rather than spending chapter after chapter proving a point that had already been proven.

Some good stories, well written and easy to read but could've delivered so much more. A decent book but from Gladwell I expected something more.

3 1/2 stars.
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