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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  158,264 ratings  ·  10,050 reviews
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. D ...more
Hardcover, 305 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Little, Brown and Company
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Snigdha Its similar to Gladwell's other books where it brings points through well-told stories but narrative is quite incoherent at many places . …moreIts similar to Gladwell's other books where it brings points through well-told stories but narrative is quite incoherent at many places . (less)
Janet Ormberget There is always something new in a Gladwell book. The idea behind this book is how the seemingly underdog isn't always the actual underdog. He provide…moreThere is always something new in a Gladwell book. The idea behind this book is how the seemingly underdog isn't always the actual underdog. He provides insight about unseen advantages that the "David" scenario has that allows it to conquer the "Goliath" scenario with ease. It's a different way of looking at a match-up. Examples include: small class sizes and elite universities as examples of a "goliath" scenario and dyslexia as a "david" scenario. Worth the read. (less)

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Oct 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gladwell is taking a lot of heat for biasing the examples he chooses in his books to make points that are often later shown to be somewhat tenuous. That may be the case, but he is a heck of a writer. He knows how to tell a compelling story and the conversations he sparks go on for years.

Whatever harm that may come from the lack of rigorousness in his brand of pop-psychology is easily overshadowed by the positive cultural impact that comes from people giving serious consideration to his ideas an
Nabil Dabbagh
Dec 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think everyone heard my jaw drop. Much like a born again who reads the bible for the first time, I have never been able to relate to a book as well as with David & Goliath.

Disclosure: I'm a dyslexic who spent all of his youth struggling through school -- spending my lunches tirelessly improving my spelling while everyone else spent their lunch break improving their rest. Things turned out all right, I was one of the first dyslexics at my school to graduate with an International Baccalaureate d
Riku Sayuj
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was ok

The Art of Avoiding Bestsellers: A Field Guide for Authors

How do books succeed?

By getting into the Bestseller lists? By making a few millions? By winning the most prestigious awards of the day?


These are very narrow views on what constitutes success for a work of art, especially literature or serious non-fiction. If we redefine success, we might find that these very things that confers ‘success’ in the short term might be hurting the artist/author the most in the long term. This applies
Oct 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No-one does insight porn quite as well as Malcolm Gladwell. His technique has been fairly well analysed before, and, with the publication of “David and Goliath” is currently under the spotlight again (e.g. and Even though much of the backlash often falls directly into the same traps of which he gets accused (e.g. critics cherry-picking the parts of his books that best support their complaints), the key argument i ...more
Oct 07, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Now, there is a lot of skepticism about Gladwell and his research methods, but whether he self-selects his data or whatever, I think that the very nature of his writing indicates that his research isn't totally conclusive. So why bother reading him? Well, Gladwell, whether he's a legitimate social scientist(or whatever the term is) or not, is a pretty gifted writer. He has a knack for telling stories and presenting dry information, like statistics, in a compelling way. Plus, his theories are alw ...more
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
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. H
Jane Stewart
What an excellent storyteller. I love his mind. I was smiling a lot. It’s stimulating. These things are fun to think about.

Not everything he says is irrefutable fact. Some of his information is anecdotal. But he raises good questions. I think what he says is true, even though opposite or different views may be true. Some topics were a little slow, but I was frequently delighted and fascinated.

The story of David and Goliath

Less talented basketball players can win using full cou
This is classic Malcolm Gladwell: A bunch of enjoyable and entertaining case studies grouped loosely under a thought-provoking theme. This time his theory is that being the underdog and having disadvantages can actually be an advantage.

The title comes from a biblical story about a giant warrior named Goliath who was slain by David, a shepherd boy who was good with a slingshot. Gladwell analyzes the story and determines that the boy was not, in fact, an underdog, but was actually was a skilled hu
Sarah Novak
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never hidden my stigmatized identity as an academic social scientist who loves Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell's books are routinely criticized by folks in my field for relying too heavily on anecdotes, conveniently selecting and interpreting supportive scientific studies, and imprecision/ overgeneralization. These points are valid, but I don't see them as damning. Gladwell isn't a scientist, and he's not writing textbooks. Ideally, he helps spark people's interest in research and makes them wan ...more
Sep 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Malcolm Gladwell is one of those authors who you remember reading, but may not quite recall which book a particular phrase came from. They're all pretty similar.

But that's the beauty of Gladwell. He's developing a coherent canon and, really, do you want to be surprised all the time? The world is disconcerting enough already.

The title, David and Goliath, tells you exactly what this book is about. It's about the little guy who made good and, even better, who turned his adversities into strengths.
Sep 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
I'm a Spock sort of person. I believe that everything in the universe is logical. If something appears to be illogical it is simply because our knowledge about it is lacking. Unlike Spock though I embrace a wider spectrum of what constitutes logic, eg emotions are very important and relevant....but otherwise I agree completely with his approach to life.

This book is all about situations that don't look logical on the surface, but if you dig a little deeper you discover the logic. To that extent i
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, psychology
Malcolm Gladwell's books are all in the same style. Gladwell writes interesting anecdotes and then generalizes them, showing common themes, behaviors, or morals. Whether or not these generalizations are valid, his books are vastly entertaining, and this book is no exception. David and Goliath is perhaps the most entertaining book I read this year!

In the introduction, Gladwell reviews the biblical story of David and Goliath. The popular conception is that Goliath was a mighty warrior, and David a
Josh Brock
Malcolm Gladwell is notorious in certain circles for his brand of "turns out" pseudo-science writing. The typical structure look something like this: First, he lays out a topic about which there's a certain conventional wisdom. He then proceeds to explain, through a series of anecdotes backed loosely by scientific research, that it "turns out" that this conventional wisdom is incorrect. Outliers and The Tipping Point are two previous examples which I thoroughly enjoyed. This book follows that fo ...more
Dec 16, 2013 rated it liked it
I wrote about my Malcolm Gladwell ambivalence in my What the Dog Saw review. Reading Gladwell has become, for me, the literary equivalent of eating Cheetos or listening to Coldplay - I unequivocally enjoy the experience, but in a vaguely unsatisfying way and I wouldn't want anyone to catch me doing it. His rhetorical stock-in-trade is the reassessment of received wisdom about human behavior examined with respect to such organizing topics as trends, decision-making, success and, in this instance, ...more
Aaron Thibeault
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*A full executive summary of this book is available here:

This book is not about underdogs and giants in any conventional sense of these terms. Rather, the book is about the curious nature of advantages and disadvantages, and how each can (under certain circumstances) become its opposite.

The first lesson to be learned is that the things we take to be advantages are often no such thing. Our greatest mistake here comes from the fact that we identify a certai
Erika Daniels
I was not impressed. Although I have liked Gladwell's other books, this one was a miss. While I recognize that he finds empirical studies to support the central ideas of his books and am generally okay with that, he went too far with David and Goliath. It was clear that he had a conviction that he wanted to persuade others to adopt and the stories in the book were chosen for that purpose. That part was expected and understandable; the part I couldn't get past was that I have read many of the stu ...more
Dec 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Chicken Soup for the Pop Psychologist's Soul. Or something like that.

The plural of anecdote is not data. And when Mr. Gladwell has a hammer, everything looks like a nail. That is, he is a very persuasive writer, but ultimately I'm not really convinced about all of his conclusions. Do I need to point out that as social science goes, this is heavy on the social and light on the science? You probably already knew that.

Anyway, I did enjoy this one. Everyone loves an underdog. And I enjoyed his retel
Dec 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
As with everything Gladwell, this book is a fun and fast read that is not at all careful with its conclusions. It's not careful scholarship, but Gladwell doesn't claim it to me. In other words, he tells a story with great anecdotes and some data that doesn't always support the point he is making. However, I believe the point he is making in David and Goliath (that underdogs can have hidden strengths and that trials and tragedy can lead to strong character). The point is valid and the stories are ...more
Mal Warwick
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Malcolm Gladwell Surprises Again

Ever since I read Malcolm Gladwell’s breakthrough book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, I’ve been unable to resist any new book from this most devilishly clever of nonfiction writers. Gladwell’s mind doesn’t seem to work the way mine does, and, unless you’re remarkably eccentric, I suspect the same could be said of you.

David and Goliath is an excellent case in point. You might assume, as I so naturally did, that the Biblical tale of
Belhor Crowley
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I stayed up reading this book until I finished it, not only because I'm currently five books behind schedule and I just had two very big cups of tea, but also because this book, like most of Gladwell's other books, is very readable and engaging. Well at least it was to me! I am of course, aware of the criticism this book has received, and I agree that his arguments should be taken... well, not very seriously. But even so, I still believe much of his arguments will hold, at least partially. Gladw ...more
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Gladwell Dropped the Rock

I read this upon its publication a few years ago. I was disappointed because it was a real drop-off from Gladwell's previous books, such as Outliers: The Story of Success and, to a lesser degree, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. A few of his anecdotes, for example those relating to schooling, seemed a real stretch to support the book's theme of David v. Goliath. At times, it felt like he'd found some unrelated stories and tried to cobble th
Adam Mohd Noor
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intriguing and fascinating read which lets readers to travel through colourful case studies about characters ranging from misfits to underdogs who had overturned their difficulties and challenges in their respective social environments and natural
attributes i.e. difficult childhood, dyslexia, racial segregations etc. More importantly, Gladwell examines WHY underdogs succeed when odds are totally against them.

A wonderful counterintuitive exploration combining Gladwell's crafty, intoxicating s
Daniel Bastian
Dec 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.

Big insights are rare commodities. Unless, that is, you happen to be cycling through Gladwell territory, where tucked away inside every myth, anecdote, or counterintuitive result is a profound lesson about the human condition. This is harmless enough when confined to the fiction aisles of your local library, but Gladwell presents his ideas as scientifically respec
Jan 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club-reads
This is the kind of book I would normally dismiss immediately, but as a book club pick I gave it a shot.

I started with a sample on my kindle, but after falling asleep several times reading that I transitioned to audio-book so I could listen while driving.

At about 3 chapters in, I wanted to quit. Both the content and the style of writing were the opposite of interesting to me.

Obviously the author is trying to make a point and I understood that all of the anecdotal comparisons should be leading
Yukari Watanabe
Oct 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As you can guess from the title, this is the book about how underdogs break the rules and defeat the privileged. As usual, Gladwell introduced many interesting examples to show his points.

The story I liked best was the one about the middle school girl basketball team coached by an Indian businessman Vivek Ranadivé. Ranadivé knew nothing about basketball and his team was made up with short nerdy girls. But he managed to bring his team to the national championship. Gladwell explained the strategie
Amanda Patterson
Oct 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Malcolm Gladwell shows why you don't always have to be Goliath to win. He explains why places such as a rebellious Northern Ireland, London during the Blitz, Birmingham in the American Civil Rights Movement, and a small town in Nazi occupied France, were able to triumph over stronger opponents.
We meet remarkable underdogs like Jay Freireich, the doctor who revolutionised treatment for children with leukaemia, and David Boies, a dyslexic trial attorney, who shouldn't have triumphed but did.
May 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 Stars for David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (audiobook) by Malcolm Gladwell read by the author. This was a interesting theme. Most of the examples seemed to go well with the title. A couple are kind of a stretch though.
S.Baqer Al-Meshqab
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
The art of storytelling is quite powerful, especially - perhaps for history freaks like me - if it demonstrates an event from ancient times to deliver and idea in the most interesting and outstanding way.

The Event: The war between the Israelites and the Philistines, in the the valley of Elah, during which a Confrontation between David - a young small weak looking boy - and Goliath - a fearsome giant, took place and marked an end of an era, and a start of a legend. Naturally, one would think tha
J.F. Penn
Oct 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting essays from Gladwell about how the underdog can win, but MORE about the way we believe certain things to be true, but they're actually not.
For example, David would always have beat Goliath as he broke the rules of 1:1 combat, choosing a weapon equivalent to a gun over a sword. It was essentially an unfair fight - but we celebrate David's winning against the odds, when in fact, we should celebrate breaking the rules and winning that way. There's a lot about the misconceptions around
Joy D
Malcolm Gladwell provides insight into why underdogs are often successful against a more powerful opponent. As is typical in his books, he takes the contrarian position, arguing that these so-called underdogs are skilled in areas under-appreciated by the general population. He cites examples and research from the fields of psychology, sociology, science, and business in support of this assertions.

As always, I enjoy reading Gladwell for the entertainment value. He does a great job of weaving tog
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Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers—The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath. He is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History, which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and Broken Record, where he, Rick Rubin, and Bruce Headlam interview musici ...more

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