By Sierra Maciorowski
On the ancient battlefield, the shepherd and the giant stand with their respective weapons. One, a mighty broadsword. The other, a slingshot. Most people today know how the story ends: the shepherd, David, defeats the giant through luck and surprise, stunning the giant with one quick shot.
To an outsider’s eyes, the person with less ability seems less likely to succeed. But Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath argues that the opposite is true. David’s victory, rather than luck, represented the advantage held by the disadvantaged: underdog’s luck, one might say.
Interestingly, he also covers the disadvantages of the advantaged: many people that “we” consider fortunate have fewer abilities than our world presumes they should possess. Do Harvard students at the bottom of their class have an advantage over top students at the University of San Francisco? In Gladwell’s eyes, absolutely not.
A fascinating combination of myth and modernity, Gladwell’s latest work weaves together dyslexia, basketball, classroom size, Ivy League schools, and the London Blitz. And, considering Gladwell’s work in The Outliers and What the Dog Saw, it comes as no surprise that he somehow manages to make seemingly unrelated topics meld together. After all, logically stretched, never-before-thought-of theses are Gladwell’s trademark.
Although Gladwell’s work is generally compelling, David and Goliath makes several jumps between evidence and conclusions which reduce the comprehensibility of his writing. Even with Gladwell’s exemplary writing style, and beautiful hypotheses, the book sometimes confuses.
So, read David and Goliath–but with caution. Confusion can only lead to misunderstanding, and losing track of the logical jumps in the book can only lead to trouble!