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Editor reviews

Best-selling author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell has written and narrated a compelling examination of power in his new-release audiobook David and Goliath. Using the classic biblical tale as an example, Gladwell highlights the reasons why it is possible for the small, feeble and unlikely people in the world to take on and quite often win against far bigger, stronger opponents. See the age-old struggle of power broken down to its core and understand far more as to why and how people succeed against all the odds. Available now from Audible.

Summary

David and Goliath is the dazzling and provocative new book from Malcolm Gladwell, best-selling author of The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers and What the Dog Saw.

Why do underdogs succeed so much more than we expect? How do the weak outsmart the strong? In David and Goliath Malcolm Gladwell takes us on a scintillating and surprising journey through the hidden dynamics that shape the balance of power between the small and the mighty. From the conflicts in Northern Ireland and Vietnam, through the tactics of civil rights leaders and the problem of privilege, Gladwell demonstrates how we misunderstand the true meaning of advantage and disadvantage.

When does a traumatic childhood work in someone's favour? How can a disability leave someone better off? And do you really want your child to go to the best school he or she can get into? David and Goliath draws on the stories of remarkable underdogs, history, science, psychology and on Malcolm Gladwell's unparalleled ability to make the connections others miss. It's a brilliant, illuminating book that overturns conventional thinking about power and advantage.

Author, journalist, cultural commentator, and intellectual adventurer, Malcolm Gladwell was born in 1963 in England to a Jamaican mother and an English mathematician father. He grew up in Canada and graduated with a degree in history from the University of Toronto in 1984. From 1987 to 1996, he was a reporter for The Washington Post, first as a science writer and then as New York City bureau chief. Since 1996, he has been a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine.

His curiosity and breadth of interests are shown in New Yorker articles ranging over a wide array of subjects including early childhood development and the flu, not to mention hair dye, shopping and what it takes to be cool. His first book, The Tipping Point, captured the world's attention with its theory that a curiously small change can have unforeseen effects, and the phrase has become part of our language, used by writers, politicians and business people everywhere to describe cultural trends and strange phenomena. His other international best-selling books are Blink, which explores how a snap judgment can be far more effective than a cautious decision, and What the Dog Saw, a collection of his most provocative and entertaining New Yorker pieces.

©2013 Malcolm Gladwell (P)2013 Audible Ltd

Critic reviews

"A global phenomenon... there is, it seems, no subject over which he cannot scatter some magic dust." ( Observer)

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Swing and a miss

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I wouldn't recommend this. I've been a fan of Gladwell's since Blink. While Outliers was over-long, there was plenty of interesting stuff in there. But David & Goliath smacks of contractual obligation. The upshot is that the underdog needs to think a little differently in order to topple Goliath. Well, thanks, Malcolm.

What was most disappointing about Malcolm Gladwell’s story?

I kept waiting for him to take the stories he was telling and explain how perhaps we could apply it to our own lives. He didn't really do this. It was essentially Jackanory, with Malcolm telling a few stories - about civil rights, about the troubles in Northern Ireland - with little point. As a listener, there was a lot of "And?"

What does Malcolm Gladwell bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Gladwell is a very good narrator. As is often the case with authors reading their own work, you can tell he really cares about his work. This certainly elevates it.

Was David and Goliath worth the listening time?

Ultimately, at seven hours, no, David & Goliath wasn't worth the reading time.

Any additional comments?

I'm still a fan of Gladwell and would check out his next work - he's an interesting voice. Let's hope this is just a rare misstep in an otherwise highly interesting and provocative career.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Rather too simplistic even for Gladwell

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Gladwell's continued cherry picking of selective 'evidence' in order to demonstrate a point without ever really testing any of the hypotheses he puts forward. The point was well made in the opening chapter when talking about the girls basketball team but went on a steady decline thereafter.'

What could Malcolm Gladwell have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

See above. I know the simplification of popular psychology is his 'style' however too selective and too simple this time.

Would you listen to another book narrated by Malcolm Gladwell?

The narration was fine and where possible or practical I like to listen to an audio book narrated by the author. Gladwell does a fine job in this regard.

Do you think David and Goliath needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

No. I think the concept was exhausted in the first chapter.

Any additional comments?

Despite my comments above I enjoyed parts of the text and it passed the time on the walk to the station. That was until the chapter on the troubles in Northern Ireland. This chapter was a biased, poorly researched abomination that presents 'facts' in such a way that anyone reading this chapter who was ignorant of the facts of the troubles would be left with a very different impression of what actually happened during this time.

The following text from another online review makes the point far better than I could, so I have quoted it below."One might imagine, on the basis of Gladwell’s account, that the majority of the casualties of the Troubles were killed by British forces. In fact, around 60 percent of the more than 3,500 people killed between 1969 and 2001 were killed by Republican forces, 30 percent by Ulster loyalists, and 10 percent by British troops. Within this overall figure, British forces and local security services suffered more than 1,100 deaths. If the British were Goliath in this conflict, they suffered a good many wounds in its course.

Gladwell’s account does more than oversimplify. It is a kind of moral cartoon, a rendition of events in which there are no difficulties that cannot be overcome by reasonable men and women of goodwill. He tells us nothing of the lengthy and tortuous path that led to the relative peace that prevails in Northern Ireland today. If only he had been around to have a quiet word with British commanders, Gladwell seems to be suggesting, and share a few academic papers with them, none of the horrors that unfolded need ever have happened."

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Martin
  • South Shields, United Kingdom
  • 27-11-13

Unconvincing

What disappointed you about David and Goliath?

The book seemed to lack evidence or explanation of how people had overcome their problems to make a success of their lives. It was very unhelpful.

What was most disappointing about Malcolm Gladwell’s story?

The anti-British tone of the sections about Northern Ireland. A complex history and community is simplified to be nonsensical extent. Patronizing and simplistic.

What three words best describe Malcolm Gladwell’s performance?

Unscientific. Patronizing. Simplistic.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from David and Goliath?

The beginning, middle and the end.

Any additional comments?

Can I have my money back?

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Enfield, United Kingdom
  • 15-11-13

it held me

Would you consider the audio edition of David and Goliath to be better than the print version?

I like listening to the short and pithy stories

What was one of the most memorable moments of David and Goliath?

about choosing the right university, I have told my students

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Thomas
  • Nottingham, United Kingdom
  • 02-11-13

"I Could Listen To Malcolm All Day Long"

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

It has so many a-ha type moments that will help you see your own advantages (advantages disadvantages) more clearly as well as helping you see them in others.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The struggle of the cancer researcher Dr.Jay Freireich.

Any additional comments?

This book is ideal for Audio, especially as the author is as good an orator as he is a writer. I enjoyed every moment of this verbal salad.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Long-winded

I like the first 3 chapters, and then after that it gets boring! I couldn't get the point of each chapter because of the long storyline.

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Very insightful.

Would recommend this book to anyone. Gave very good insights for people with seeming disadvantages.

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Another great Gladwell book

5 stars. Gladwell at his best. insightful and moving the author takes you on a great journey. 5 stars.

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loved every minute

classic Malcolm Glad we'll full of great stories and cutting insights. highly recommended to all

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Some valuable life lessons

Where does David and Goliath rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It's up there with the rest of the books I have read and also with other Gladwell books that I have read.

What about Malcolm Gladwell’s performance did you like?

His performance adds huge value to the book. So well told.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me connect to many ideas I have heard elsewhere and helped me see them more clearly. I now employ ideas when coaching my clients.

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  • Rahul
  • 02-12-13

Brilliant

What did you love best about David and Goliath?

Extremely intriguing and educating.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

Very easy language.

Which scene was your favorite?

The bit where he explains the duel of David and Goliath and why David was always the favourite to win,

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

The bit about hitting a level below what you would otherwise just squeeze into.

Any additional comments?

Great book in the most mesmerising voice of Gladwell himself.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Glenn
  • 10-08-18

poetically insightful

this audio books grips from start to finish. fantastically written and read by the author.

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  • Mathabatha
  • 05-08-18

It’s a beautiful listen and an even better story

I heard the Ted talk and expected more of the same.
I got more than I expected.
Lessons on parenting, on teaching and on facing challenges all in one deep dive on the non obvious advantages.

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  • Oyeniyi
  • 23-02-18

Thank you Malcom

To all the Davids out there, GO! DARE!
I found the stories quite enlightening and while I have a few (maybe one or two) points of divergence, this book is definitely a resource.

There are Goliath in this world, in every sphere of life.... But every single one of them can be defeated. Including sicknesses such as Cancer!

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  • Concerned Parent
  • 05-05-17

Wonderful!

Another brilliant, insightful journey courtesy of the phenomenal Malcolm Gladwell.

I highly recommend this book...

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  • M. I. Hassan
  • 11-09-16

Short.. & trying too hard!

Outliers was a book that quite literally changed my 'outlook' towards life & since then I've read all/most of Gladwell's works.. sadly though, with David & Goliath, the author seems to be trying too hard to fit the story/narrative to a feeble plot.. I will still continue to be an ardent fan of his work and would certainly like to see something great come from Malcolm :)

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  • Audio Gra Gra
  • 09-07-16

Gladwell is a one trick pony.

Gladwell's The Tipping Point was an interesting book, but unfortunately ever since then Gladwell seems intent on finding a new way back to the money tree of the New York Bestsellers List by plucking a random talking point from somewhere, anywhere, and making a book out of it.
David vs Goliath starts with an opening premise which literally and seriously takes its cues from a fictional tale in the Bible and then hacks away and away repeating itself and trying to justify the same inane argument over and over again whether applying it to little girl's basketball teams or major corporations.
Its all complete hokum dressed up as sagely "hip and modern" wisdom and its a contender for the silliest book I've ever read.

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  • Hellocat
  • 02-02-16

Gladwell loses his way, and I my respect for him

Malcolm Gladwell has been believing his own press for way too long. When he started out with The Tipping Point in 2000, he had a knack for making interesting observations that went against the grain of common knowledge. Each thesis he presented was carefully thought out and argued, and encouraged one to re-evaluate the subject at hand instead of proclaiming definitively that his was the one and only version of the truth.

With the passage of time he has become bolder. Each of his subsequent books have seemed more sure of itself than the last, as his arguments for his "findings" have grown thinner and thinner. Even before the arrival of David & Goliath, he was already fond making sweeping generalizations that would make a politician blush, all the while having little but his own opinions backing up those statements.

With David & Goliath, Gladwell seems to have almost given up not only on presenting properly conceived theses, but has abandoned even trying to formulate coherent conclusions. His anecdotes meander pointlessly for ages before concluding abruptly, not coming to any conclusions and not providing the listener with sufficient information to draw their own.

Worst of all, judgement has crept into his analyses. No longer does he objectively look at issues and how people perceive them, but tinges all his arguments with his own point of view. This is brought home in a bizarre fashion in the chapter on the three strikes law. Not only is this well-trodden ground - everything he talks about has been common knowledge almost since the law's inception - but he seems to have no aim but to rip apart the poor father who instigated the law with only the best of intentions. It's nothing but an exercise in character assassination, and his unbelievable conclusion seems to be only that the father should have "gotten over" his daughter's brutal murder instead of trying to make the world a better, safer place. The merits of the law's logic notwithstanding, it was a breathtakingly cringe-worthy experience hearing Gladwell so heartlessly stomp on this man's grief and how he coped with it. His method of coping was, by the way, nothing but positive and inspirational.

The book as a whole reads more like a drunken man in a bar shouting "now let me tell you something" rather than a well-conceived series of arguments about interesting topics.

Gladwell has become an almost unrecognizable parody of himself, and this will be the last book of his I purchase.

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  • Brat
  • 14-12-15

first part is great. later part struggled to close

first part is great . later part - tough to comprehend !! . ... . ...

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  • Pavan Kumar
  • 13-09-15

Brilliant

Loved listening to this book. Highly insightful. Intertwined and highly factual.. You will learn so much from this book