Newsletter #551 – David, Goliath and Malcolm Gladwell


 If you have passed through an American airport this David and Goliath 1month you probably have seen racks of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath displayed prominently. I have started reading all of Gladwell’s previous books but I have not finished any. Gladwell tells endless stories that have bored and left me wondering “What’s the point?” So I decided to read David and Goliath and persist to the end. I’m glad I did, although I think the last two chapters were the best.

A few pages from the end (page 268) the author summarizes what his book “tried to make plain….The powerful are not as powerful as they seem—nor the weak as weak.” Like Goliath with David, “there comes a point when the extra resources that the powerful think of as their greatest advantage only serve to make things worse” (page 238). What we assumed to be entrenched advantages don’t always offer the edge we expect. The book shows how individuals, groups and even whole nations can rely too much on their perceived superiority and lose their battles. Often the powerful fail to realize that apparently weak people can mobilize, re-evaluate their weaknesses, and creatively rise to achieve their goals and ultimately win.

While I was reading this book two related articles appeared on the Internet. The first was an article from Atlantic magazine (October, 2013) in which the writer raised some good perspectives and inconsistencies in Gladwell’s writing but appeared to be more critical than enlightening. The other article was an interview from the Religion News Services (October 9, 2013) describing Gladwell’s return to faith while writing his book. This comes through clearly when the last chapters which describe two parents dealing with the murders of their daughters. One parent mobilized the whole state of California in political action that was an understandably angry response to the murder there. Then the  voters overturned their own actions. The other family, Mennonites like Gladwell’s family, responded with forgiveness. The author wrote that forgiveness  “is a very practical strategy based on the belief that there are profound limits to what the formal [including legal and political] mechanisms of retribution can accomplish.”

Please comment, especially if you have read Gladwell’s books, particularly David and Goliath.


  1. Gary, I missed Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s RNS interview about Gladwell’s return to faith. Thank you for pointing it out. As background, you and your readers may find very interesting, as I did, the book his mother wrote about her own faith journey. See Joyce Gladwell, 2003, Brown face, Big Master, Oxford: Macmillan Caribbean (orig publ Inter Varsity Press, London, 1969). Who can fathom the ways of God?


    1. Thanks for the book Info Dave. HERE IS ANOTHER GLADWELL INTERVIEW. If anybody is flying United Airlines this month (November) pull out the free Hemispheres magazine, turn to page 74 and read the interview with Gladwell titled “Gladwell bets on Underdogs.” I wonder why this guys gets so much publicity?


      1. Just read the Hemispheres interview online. Thanks for the lead. Until now, I haven’t stopped to ask myself why I and so many find his writing appealing. Perhaps it’s because he is such a good story-teller. He cites experts of all kinds, but humanizes them by telling their story, not just their research results.

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