Half-Assed Book Review of David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

4 Nov

Malcolm Gladwell knows how to write books that sell and, presumably, make him loads of money. Can you blame him? Of course not. People call him a fraud or say he sounds extremely convincing if you lack expertise, but the reality is that he has written several successful books because he has found a formula that works. First, start with a white cover using a Garamond font. Then, use anecdotes and other people’s research to make readers see the world in the exact opposite way they thought it should be. The key to what makes this formula so profitable for Gladwell is his storytelling abilities.

His newest book David and Goliath is no exception to the Gladwellian method. Basically, he uses the most famous underdog story in western society to show that sometimes weaknesses are actually strengths and, conversely, strengths are weaknesses.

Watch this video to see Gladwell’s storytelling abilities in action.

Gladwell has a knack for popularizing phrases making them part of our lexicon. At a majority of dinner parties since 2000 when his first book was published, someone will reference the “10,000 hour rule,” “mavens” or “tipping points” most likely. “Desirable difficulties” and “inverted-U curve” are his new phrases from this book. Dyslexia (or slexdyexia as I see it) is an example of a desirable difficulty. Most people affected by dyslexia struggle to read and comprehend, but Gladwell argues that by learning how to cope with this disorder, some people develop habits that are actually quite beneficial. Apparently, many prosperous people suffer from dyslexia. The inverted-U curve is like the over-dramatic cousin of the tipping point. It shows that to a point something gets better and better until it reaches its peak and starts getting worse and worse. Kinda like marginal diminishing returns on steroids. The best example from the book is alcohol consumption:

Inverted-U Curve: Alcohol Consumption

Woohoo! Negative health! (image from http://www.bonytobeastly.com)

I personally enjoy his books, but haters gonna hate. I read several reviews of David and Goliath before actually getting a copy, and while I read the book I was looking for reasons to hate it. While reading, I thought to myself, “How could Gladwell possibly write another great book? His luck must have run out?” This book relies on connections between chapters much more than any of his other books seem to. No chapter can stand alone as a result, which poses a problem for a book of essays. Honestly, though, this book is such an engaging and quick read that it doesn’t matter. There are lots of people out there who criticize Gladwell for never doing his own research and for intentionally not including information to make his point. True, he is doing that, but, no, it is not a bad thing. He is a journalist taking liberties, not a psychologist establishing laws. He has mastered the arts of storytelling and combining other people’s research to sell an idea. And these ideas inspire people and make them think differently. Even if the ideas are flawed.

David and Goliath is no Tipping Point, Outliers, or Blink, but it is still a decent book. Maybe a 7/10. Should you read it? If you want to know what the hell people are talking about at your next dinner party, yes.

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4 Responses to “Half-Assed Book Review of David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell”

  1. Charles Euchner November 4, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    Take a look at Malcolm Gladwell’s rejection letter (http://bit.ly/1cXaoP1)

  2. ccharlesconfidential November 5, 2013 at 3:40 am #

    Please tell me that is your half ass on the faux-Gladwell cover

  3. Carl Wells November 5, 2013 at 4:02 am #

    Commenting on the video provided; the storytelling skills are poor. He repeats himself multiple times, is very predictable, and draws huge conclusions from the worst examples of evidence. That video could have said as much in 5 minutes as it does in 15. Anyway that doesn’t mean he’s wrong or his books aren’t entertaining. If it’s a fun read I might check it out.

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