Review of David and Goliath

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Best-selling author and New Yorker magazine regular Malcolm Gladwell possesses a singular genius: He can take the contents of a fairly interesting, to-the-zeitgeist, feature-length magazine article and expand it into a readable best-selling book. His straightforward, conversational style, direct reader address and constant citing of impressive-sounding studies transform even minor insights into thunderbolts. His pat observations – such as The Tipping Point’s contention that one must practice 10,000 hours to achieve true skill in any endeavor – become social clichés and appear in pretty much every subsequent book or article that comes anywhere near a subject he once addressed. Give credit where it’s due: Gladwell created his own successful niche, and he works it unceasingly. This entertaining collection of pronouncements and the anecdotes that illustrate them illuminate an ancient yet contemporary theme: the triumph of the underdog.

About the Author

New Yorker magazine staff writer Malcolm Gladwell’s other bestsellers include Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking; Outliers: The Story of Success; What The Dog Saw: And Other Adventures; and The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.


King David

The Biblical David’s defeat of the giant warrior Goliath using but a sling and a stone serves as Gladwell’s archetype of the underdog’s triumph. But Gladwell turns the usual interpretation of that confrontation on its head. He insists that people misunderstand underdog stories. Gladwell posits that people have long regarded the victory of a David over a Goliath as far more rare than it really is. He holds that being an underdog has unappreciated advantages in that it can “open doors,” “create opportunities” and make the “unthinkable” possible. Building on that idea, Gladwell ranges around the world and rummages through history for stories of determined underdogs and how they earned their victories, even in unbalanced “asymmetrical conflicts.”

Lawrence of Arabia

Gladwell turns to Thomas Edward Lawrence – the famed desert warrior Lawrence of Arabia – as a model underdog. Lawrence was an English scholar who studied Middle Eastern antiquity. During World War I, he became one of the most successful guerrilla tacticians of the 20th century. When the English inserted Lawrence into the Arab Revolt as a consultant to its Arab leaders, he led his mobile, camel-mounted force of Arab fighters against the Turkish army that held the Middle East.

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