Emirates Literature Foundation Blog (ELF)

Audio Book Review: David And Goliath By Malcolm Gladwell

By: Calvin Serrao

Hear from one of our passionate readers.

Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath is a collection of independent case studies each picked to further the thesis that much of what we perceive to be adverse situations, are in fact, platforms and opportunities that can thrust individuals into achieving both the spectacular as well as the unthinkable. The audiobook is narrated by Gladwell himself and begins with one of the Bible’s most famous stories: David and Goliath. A story about how a giant, undefeated in battle, named Goliath is faced with a fight to the death against a lowly shepherd named David. The victor of the fight gets to live while their army marches forward. The loser dies and their army goes on to serve the winners for the rest of their lives. Goliath is armed to the gills with a tunic made from fishlike scales, his arms and legs covered in bronze armor while he carries three heavy close contact weapons: a javelin made of bronze, a sword and a spear capable of piercing both bronze shields and armor alike. David is armed with a slingshot and 5 smooth stones. On paper it would seem to be heavily one sided, which in fact it is.

In a war, projectile warriors massively overpower infantry due to their ability to hit targets at extreme speeds such as 35 metres per second. And that is exactly what David does, when he shoots his stone straight at Goliath’s forehead — his only point of vulnerability — thus rendering him unconscious. When this happens, David is  able to run up to Goliath and cut off his head. To most people, this would seem to be an extraordinary feat, yet it only gets more and more feasible the more you understand the situation.

As Gladwell goes to explain, Goliath suffered from a condition called acromegaly which led to his poor vision and lack of coordination as well as his immense height. This gave David a tactical advantage. For example, imagine if you were fighting a seven foot person who can barely see or move because of their armor. Furthermore, you are at a distance, which suits you as you have the ancient equivalent of a gun coupled with incredible aim from having had to fight off wild animals like wolves and bears. This causes the equation to change drastically, and now victory seems heavily in favor of David. All the advantages Goliath seems to have work against him. That is what this audiobook is about: changing how we perceive things in order to re-evaluate how we see the world.
Gladwell does this throughout the audiobook by deconstructing further examples of so-called “underdogs” and their respective paths to victory. What separates this audiobook from his other works such as Blink and Outliers is that there is the sole focus on these “underdogs” beating favorites and how they are able to do so. In Blink, he delves into how our own experiences can subconsciously and unconsciously lead people to making informed decisions, extremely quickly, while in Outliers, he digs into the reasons why highly successful people are so successful. The common theme with most of his books is deconstructing why the status quo is what it is and then demonstrating how that is, in an easily digestible way. 
And much like in his previous books, David and Goliath uses examples throughout which when followed by Gladwell’s informed and efficient justification, make it a thoroughly absorbable listen. His narration helps enhance this as it is clear and smooth throughout, a mark of his skill as both a writer and a narrator. Having written, researched, and thought through all of his ideas, naturally, he understands the ebbs and flows of his own writing and is able to make the book almost conversational. What makes this more enjoyable than his others is the underlying tone which left me, someone who struggles with Dyslexia, heavily inspired. His rich tenor and unique voice allow for the ideas discussed to stick with the listener.  This is also the first audiobook I have listened to that centers Dyslexia positively, and that too, in a way that is both believable and also inspirational. 
Similarly, Gladwell’s other book Outliers proposes the “10,000 hour rule,” which requires an individual to put in 10,000 hours of practice to become highly proficient at that particular task, which can be motivational, under the right circumstances. One of the reasons this is so impactful for me, is because he exemplifies why great people are the way they are. By adopting their tips, strategies and even ideologies, it provides an avenue to grow further. This is a common thread in his books. Whether it is through the business world, the sociopolitical world or even the world through the eyes of a dog, he is able to simplify real-world situations and explain why it is so. Moreover, they are all narrated by him as well, which gives you a direct insight into his thoughts. His clear, concise diction and mannerisms are evident in all of the audiobooks he narrates. However, unlike all of his other books, the topics discussed in this audiobook are the most digestible by wider audiences. The topics discussed in his previous works revolve around crime, racial profiling, financial fraud amongst other things which are all extremely important topics that need delving into. However, for a first time listener, the themes of David and Goliath are relatively light yet impactful which make this a fantastic audiobook to start off with. This reason is why this book is a must hear in my opinion, because this book allows you to get educated on a real-world situation but in an easily understandable way. 

For more book recommendations, author interviews, event news and more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram

Calvin Serrao is an actor, writer, producer, and creator of his own Youtube channelHis interests include Manchester United FC, Conor McGregor as well as all things food.