David and Goliath (Gladwell)

David and Goliath:  Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
Malcolm Gladwell, 2013
Little, Brown and Co.
320 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780316204361

We all know that underdogs can win—that's what the David versus Goliath legend tells us, and we've seen it with our own eyes. Or have we?

In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell, with his unparalleled ability to grasp connections others miss, uncovers the hidden rules that shape the balance between the weak and the mighty, the powerful and the dispossessed. Gladwell examines the battlefields of Northern Ireland and Vietnam, takes us into the minds of cancer researchers and civil rights leaders, and digs into the dynamics of successful and unsuccessful classrooms—all in an attempt to demonstrate how fundamentally we misunderstand the true meaning of advantages and disadvantages.

When is a traumatic childhood a good thing? When does a disability leave someone better off? Do you really want your child to go to the best school he or she can get into? Why are the childhoods of people at the top of one profession after another marked by deprivation and struggle?

Drawing upon psychology, history, science, business, and politics, David and Goliath is a beautifully written book about the mighty leverage of the unconventional. Millions of readers have been waiting for the next Malcolm Gladwell book. That wait is over. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio 
Birth—September 3, 1963
Where—Fareham, Hampshire, England, U.K.
• Raised—Elmira, Ontario, Canada
Education—B.A., University of Toronto
Currently—New York, New York, USA

Malcolm T. Gladwell is an English-Canadian journalist, bestselling author, and speaker. He has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. He has written five books, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference (2000), Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), Outliers: The Story of Success (2008), What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009), and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (2013). The first four books were on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Gladwell's books and articles often deal with the unexpected implications of research in the social sciences and make frequent and extended use of academic work, particularly in the areas of sociology, psychology, and social psychology. Gladwell was appointed to the Order of Canada 1n 2011.

Early life
Gladwell was born in Fareham, Hampshire, England. His mother is Joyce (Nation) Gladwell, a Jamaican-born psychotherapist. His father, Graham Gladwell, is a British mathematics professor. Gladwell has said that his mother is his role model as a writer. When he was six, his family moved to Elmira, Ontario, Canada.

Gladwell's father noted that Malcolm was an unusually single-minded and ambitious boy. When Malcolm was 11, his father allowed him to wander around the offices at his university, which stoked the boy's interest in reading and libraries. During his high school years, Gladwell was an outstanding middle-distance runner and won the 1,500 meter title at the 1978 Ontario High School 14-year-old championships in Kingston, Ontario. In the spring of 1982, Gladwell interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C. He graduated with a degree in history from the University of Toronto's Trinity College in 1984.

Gladwell's grades were not good enough for graduate school (as Gladwell puts it, "college was not an... intellectually fruitful time for me"), so he decided to go into advertising. After being rejected by every advertising agency he applied to, he accepted a journalism position at The American Spectator and moved to Indiana. He subsequently wrote for Insight on the News, a conservative magazine owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.

In 1987, Gladwell began covering business and science for the Washington Post, where he worked until 1996. In a personal elucidation of the 10,000 hour rule he popularized in Outliers, Gladwell notes, "I was a basket case at the beginning, and I felt like an expert at the end. It took 10 years—exactly that long."

When Gladwell started at The New Yorker in 1996 he wanted to "mine current academic research for insights, theories, direction, or inspiration." His first assignment was to write a piece about fashion. Instead of writing about high-class fashion, Gladwell opted to write a piece about a man who manufactured T-shirts, saying

...it was much more interesting to write a piece about someone who made a T-shirt for $8 than it was to write about a dress that costs $100,000. I mean, you or I could make a dress for $100,000, but to make a T-shirt for $8 – that's much tougher.

Gladwell gained popularity with two New Yorker articles, both written in 1996: "The Tipping Point" and "The Coolhunt." These two pieces would become the basis for Gladwell's first book, The Tipping Point, for which he received a $1 million advance. He continues to write for The New Yorker and also serves as a contributing editor for Grantland, a sports journalism website founded by ESPN's Bill Simmons.

When asked for the process behind his writing, Gladwell has said...

I have two parallel things I'm interested in. One is I'm interested in collecting interesting stories, and the other is I'm interested in collecting interesting research. What I'm looking for is cases where they overlap.

The title for his first book, The Tipping Point (2000), came from the phrase "tipping point"—the moment in an disease epidemic when the virus reaches critical mass and begins to spread at a much higher rate.

Gladwell published Blink (2005), a book explaining how the human subconscious interprets events or cues and how past experiences can lead people to make informed decisions very rapidly.

Gladwell's third book, Outliers (2008) examines the way a person's environment, in conjunction with personal drive and motivation, affects his or her possibility and opportunity for success.

What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009) bundles together Gladwell's favorite articles from The New Yorker since he joined the magazine as a staff writer in 1996. The stories share a common idea, namely, the world as seen through the eyes of others, even if that other happens to be a dog.

David and Goliath (2013) explores the struggle of underdogs versus favorites. The book is partially inspired by a 2009 article Gladwell wrote for The New Yorker, "How David Beats Goliath."

The Tipping Point and Blink became international bestsellers, each selling over two million copies in the US.

David Leonhardt wrote in the New York Times Book Review: "In the vast world of nonfiction writing, Malcolm Gladwell is as close to a singular talent as exists today" and that Outliers "leaves you mulling over its inventive theories for days afterward." Ian Sample of The Guardian (UK) also wrote of Outliers that when brought together, "the pieces form a dazzling record of Gladwell's art. There is depth to his research and clarity in his arguments, but it is the breadth of subjects he applies himself to that is truly impressive."

Criticism of Gladwell tends to focus on the fact that he is a journalist and not a scientist, and as a result his work is prone to oversimplification. The New Republic called the final chapter of Outliers, "impervious to all forms of critical thinking" and said that Gladwell believes "a perfect anecdote proves a fatuous rule."

Gladwell has also been criticized for his emphasis on anecdotal evidence over research to support his conclusions. Steven Pinker, even while praising Gladwell's attractive writing style and content, sums up Gladwell as "a minor genius who unwittingly demonstrates the hazards of statistical reasoning." Pinker accuses him of using "cherry-picked anecdotes, post-hoc sophistry and false dichotomies" in Outliers.

Despite these criticisms Gladwell commands hefty speaking fees: $80,000 for one speech, according to a 2008 New York magazine article although some speeches he makes for free. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/02/2013.)

Book Reviews
(Starred review.) A far- and free-ranging meditation on the age-old struggle between underdogs and top dogs.... Though the book begins like a self-help manual...it soon becomes clear that Gladwell is not interested in simple formulas or templates for success. He aims to probe deeply into the nature of underdog-ness and explore why top dogs have long had such trouble with underdogs.... In addition to the top-notch writing one expects from a New Yorker regular, Gladwell rewards readers with moving stories, surprising insights and consistently provocative ideas.
Kirkus Reviews

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