David and Goliath

Malcolm Gladwell explores the benefits of being an underdog in David and Goliath.

Malcolm Gladwell

Poverty, small size and a learning disability can all be secret weapons rather than disadvantages, according to Malcolm Gladwell. The New Yorker writer and bestselling author turns the concept of the underdog upside down in this thought-provoking book. Using the framework of the David and Goliath story, Gladwell analyses a number of real-life cases to show that assumptions about relative power can be mistaken, and having obstacles to overcome can actually be an advantage.

Read an excerpt | Author interviews | More about this book

From the book

He was a giant, six foot nine at least, wearing a bronze helmet and full body armor. He carried a javelin, a spear, and a sword. An attendant preceded him, carrying a large shield. The giant faced the Israelites and shouted out: "Choose you a man and let him come down to me! If he prevail in battle against me and strike me down, we shall be slaves to you. But if I prevail and strike him down, you will be slaves to us and serve us."

In the Israelite camp, no one moved. Who could win against such a terrifying opponent? Then, a shepherd boy who had come down from Bethlehem to bring food to his brothers stepped forward and volunteered. Saul objected: "You cannot go against this Philistine to do battle with him, for you are a lad and he is a man of war from his youth." But the shepherd was adamant. He had faced more ferocious opponents than this, he argued. "When the lion or the bear would come and carry off a sheep from the herd," he told Saul, "I would go after him and strike him down and rescue it from his clutches." Saul had no other options. He relented, and the shepherd boy ran down the hill toward the giant standing in the valley. "Come to me, that I may give your flesh to the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field," the giant cried out when he saw his opponent approach. Thus began one of history's most famous battles. The giant's name was Goliath. The shepherd boy's name was David.

From David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell ©2013. Published by Hachette.

Author interviews

More about this book