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on 28 November 2014
Fantastic read
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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 15 January 2014
I wonder if his community of near misses will apply to the independence battle in Scotland. For over a year now, the Scottish electorate have been bombarded by Project Fear and yet all these prophesies of doom have been systematically deconstructed and shown for what they are; nought but scaremongering.

Could it be that once people understand that the fear they have been forced to face has melted under scrutiny they then will embrace the independence of their country?
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on 2 November 2015
Another good read from Malcolm Gladwell again. Some intriguing points though it does feel, as with other books, he is finding facts to fit his theories and not the other way around.
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on 14 August 2017
This guy writes so well. He draws you in with beautifully crafted stories. Murnane says in one of his books that he regretted having told people that some of his books were works of fiction and some essays. I really believe that creativity is essential for both these writing tasks, and that because real art prefers to hide, there is a good argument to be had in believing that more creativity is asked for in the writing of non-fiction than in fiction.

Not that this guy really hides his artifice. His stories are painstakingly structured and his punches are delivered with such precision that it is hard not to want to applaud even as they slam into the side of your face.

And I love that he leads me down the garden path. I wonder how many people will be caught in the depths of their prejudices only to find the tables being turned. It would be hard to make a more compelling argument, for instance, in favour of the Californian ‘three strikes and your in’ laws than he makes here or to find a way to so convincingly refute this emotional, logical and compelling argument almost immediately after.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 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 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 12 March 2014
This is not my favourite Gladwell book, but it is still very very good. Some of the topics rely too much on anecdote, but in most of the chapters he is on top form. The sections on law enforcement and education are excellent. What seems obvious, e.g. that smaller classes are an advantage, is only true up to a point. When the anecdotes are backed up by facts he is at his scintillating best and as always, this is a book to remember and quote from when people assume there are easy answers to difficult questions.
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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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