Sunday, December 15, 2013

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

This was not a very rewarding book for me to read.

The title grabbed me. We all love a story about a little guy beating the big guy. And he had some good stories in this book. He writes about a scrappy little team playing unconventional ball and beating the big team. He writes about M. L. King and the civil rights movement. Outnumbered they did not fight in the conventional way. He also relates the mistakes the British made in Northern Ireland. Thinking they had much greater resources, they didn't believe what the Irish thought about them would make any difference.

There is a whole aspect of his book I didn't think followed the title. One of the points he says he wants to make in this book is that giants aren't always what we think they are. Sometimes what we view as a strength is really a great weakness. Sometimes what we think is a great weakness is really a strength. As an example, he wrote extensively about class size. Smaller isn't always better. The same principle applies to prison time. There comes a point where increasing the prison time has the opposite effect intended. Another example was about the “disadvantage” of a learning disability. He gives several stories of people so “disadvantaged” yet were great successes.

Gladwell writes early in his book that the stories he tells will illustrate two ideas. Much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of David verses Goliath conflicts. And, we constantly misread and misinterpret these conflicts. Having read the book, I don't think he did that.

I have read others of Gladwell's books and liked them. This one is rather mediocre. Some of the stories seemed way to long and involved. With others I was never sure what they were supposed to illustrate. And several, I thought, had nothing to do with the title. I was expecting many more stories of the little guy going up against the big corporation, or something like that. Not to be.

Malcom Gladwell has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1996. Prior to that he was a reporter at the Washington Post. He was born in England and lives in New York.

Little, Brown and Company, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the B&B Media Group for the purpose of this review.

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