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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 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 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 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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I have read and reviewed all of Malcolm Gladwell's previous books and consider him to be among the most talented and energetic of journalists, with most of his work featured in The New Yorker. He also has superb storyteller skills. His "discoveries" tend to be well-known to those knowledgeable about the given subject. In The Tipping Point, for example, he discusses a phenomenon previous characterized by Michael Kami as a "trigger point" and later by Andrew Grove as an "inflection point." Or consider "the secret of success" that he discusses in The Outliers. For decades, Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University have been conducting research on peak performance. He duly acknowledges sources such as Ericsson and should be praised for attracting greater attention to the subjects he discusses. That is Gladwell's great value.

However, in his latest book, David and Goliath, he demonstrates faulty reasoning, such as what Christopher Chabris characterizes as "the fallacy of the unexamined premise." He also has problems with causal relationships and this is not the first time that Gladwell confuses "because" with "despite." For example, consider his assertion that attorney David Boies's great success is largely explained by the fact that he is dyslexic. Overcoming learning disabilities may have been - for Boies as well as countless others -- what Warren Bennis and David Thomas characterize as a "crucible" that strengthens and enlightens those who emerge from it.

In this context, I am reminded of the fact that one of the world's most renowned authorities on ADHD, Edward ("Ned") Hallowell, is an author of countless books and articles on the subject, a child and adult psychiatrist, and a New York Times bestselling author. Also, he is a graduate of Harvard College and Tulane Medical School as well as the founder of The Hallowell Centers in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and New York City. Are these great achievements because or despite the fact that Hallowell is ADHD?

In his latest book, Gladwell relies too heavily on insufficient evidence or, worst yet, only on evidence that supports his premise. Yes, peak performers such as Boies, Richard Branson, Brian Glazer, David Neeleman, and Charles Schwab overcame severe learning disabilities and yes, 12 of 44 U.S. Presidents (including the first and the current) lost their father at an early age. There is no shortage of examples of women as well as men who have a "story of success" despite all manner of physical, social, and/or economic limitations.

Gladwell is at his best when sharing what he has learned after exploring subjects of special interest to him. As indicated, I admire his skills as a journalist and storyteller. What I view as his defective reasoning skills detract from the presentation of some (not all) if the material in David and Goliath, hence the Four Star rating.
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TOP 50 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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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 4 October 2013
Malcolm Gladwell has justifiably become one of the more popular non-fiction writers - his previous books such as The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference or Outliers: The Story of Success have done an excellent job of synthesizing scientific research that was perhaps not always intuitively appealing into a very readable and easy to digest format.

Partially the current book - 'David and Goliath' - follows in the same vein. He is still one of the easiest writers to read and the concept, namely that the cards are often stacked against the more powerful 'Goliath', is a common, if not often acknowledged one.

The book starts well enough with the original David and Goliath story and then progresses through plenty of individual cases on how the weaker side successfully took on the conventionally more powerful one. The examples range from basketball, dyslexia, to the treatment of leukemia, the civil right movement, Northern Ireland and the 'three strike policy'.

If you are looking for a well argued scientific treatise, the book will possibly disappoint. While research is often used to strengthen the points the author tries to make, it is less pervasive than in his other books; here much more is based on individual case studies.

Nevertheless, if you use the book primarily as a 'food for thought' material, there are certainly plenty of interesting cases to work from here and the author (sometimes narrowly) avoids the trap of claiming that the position of the weaker, disadvantaged party is by definition the preferable one. He ably demonstrates that there are certain strengths that can be drawn from a position conventionally defined as the weaker one, from never giving up, not playing according to (informal) rules, avoiding your opponents' strength, to building on the mechanisms that helped you overcome your weakness...

Quite some of the points are not new, and some recent Po Bronson non-fiction books such as Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing or Nurtureshock: Why Everything We Thought About Children is Wrong perhaps demonstrate them with more scientific support, even if they do not read quite as fluidly as this here (they are very close, though).

So overall not the most memorable Gladwell but still an interesting book that can help the more reflective manager, strategist or general thinker play out intriguing scenarios and understand some basics of 'David and Goliath' mechanics.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 February 2014
This is very enjoyable and entertaining reading. The main theme is the goldiocks principle - too little or too much of something won't work well - it needs to be just right ( or at least within a just-right range)

Drawing on examples from education, policing, civil rights, and much else the book provides numerous anecdotes as well as statistical evidence to show that inverse U shaped curves apply to the effectiveness of most fields of human activity.

I thouroughly enjoyed this book, although there is not much that is revelatory, and read it in just one day
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Gladwell's books have a similar structure and generate similar controversies: pick a big idea, illustrate it with lots of quirky case studies focused on human stories, produce a best seller and watch the critics pull part the accuracy of many points. Yet even after the critical battering, there's often some interesting and relevant ideas left at the heart of his books, though ones it's a good idea to read up about from others too before applying them yourself.

David & Goliath fits that mould perfectly, except that this time the big idea is a little less striking - as the famous story in the title reveals, the basic idea that the underdog can win out is hardly new (even if, as Gladwell argues, the version of David & Goliath we are all used to hearing is flawed).

A fun breezy read to get you thinking, rather than a detailed case built on evidence.
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