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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Book Review: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants

Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Publisher:  Little, Brown & Company, 2013
Genre: Non-fiction, Psychology

First Lines:
At the heart of ancient Palestine is the region known as the Shephelah, a series of ridges and valleys connecting the Judean Mountains to the east with the wide, flat expanse of the Mediterranean plain. It is an area of breathtaking beauty, home to vineyards and wheat fields and forests of sycamore and terebinth. It is also of great strategic importance.
Goodreads Description:

In his #1 bestselling books The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell has explored the ways we understand and change our world. Now he looks at the complex and surprising ways the weak can defeat the strong, the small can match up against the giant, and how our goals (often culturally determined) can make a huge difference in our ultimate sense of success. Drawing upon examples from the world of business, sports, culture, cutting-edge psychology, and an array of unforgettable characters around the world, David and Goliath is in many ways the most practical and provocative book Malcolm Gladwell has ever written.

My Review:

Malcolm Gladwell has a magnificent way of making readers think differently about things we would otherwise take for granted. Of course smaller class sizes are better, of course we should be crack down on crime, of course we want a medical doctor who is sympathetic and has a good bedside manner. Really? Hmmm... Think again.

This book was our January book club selection and provoked a good discussion. For some of us it was very timely – particularly the concept of the small fish in a big pond vs. the big fish in a small pond. One member has a granddaughter who was applying to the International Baccalaureate program, competing with over 900 students for one of 112 spots. My son is looking at applying to universities. When my friend’s granddaughter didn’t get into the IB program, she was able to encourage her – you do well in your small pond; in the big pond you would be competing with all of these other students for top marks and your future might be more difficult and discouraging. With my son, I’ve been able to say, “I know you’re looking at this prestigious university for your studies, but don’t feel down-hearted if you get accepted by your second choice. You may actually better flourish in that environment.” 

Another concept that resonated with our group was that of remote and near misses. When one member’s husband suffered a mild heart attack, he developed a feeling of invincibility, having missed the big one. He became almost fearless in the choices he made.

Throughout the book Gladwell presents compelling examples and research to turn traditional thinking on its ear. As he tells the reader (p. 62), “We all assume that being bigger and stronger and richer is always in our best interest. isn’t.” 

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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