Byline: ANTHONY WOODWARD
David And Goliath
Allen Lane [pounds sterling]16.99 [pounds sterling]14.99 ***
In history's most famous bout of single combat, the giant Goliath is slain by the shepherd boy David. Whirling his sling, he slams a pebble into Goliath's forehead. As the giant falls, David snatches his sword and cuts off his head.
So the Bible story runs. And so the irrepressible Malcolm Gladwell has the perfect subject for his next multi-disciplinary, crosscultural blockbuster: how apparent 'underdogs' can be winners in disguise, boasting 'advantages' we're not used to seeing as 'advantages'. Thus dyslexia can develop your powers of memory. Being bombed can foster invincible courage. Losing a parent young can lead to confidence, as you've proved you can cope with one of the worst things life can throw at you.
Gladwell steams in with his blend of uberconfidence, inverted received wisdom (big class sizes can be better than small) and research culled from obscure academic journals then translated into clear, arm-roundthe-shoulder prose. All is driven by pulse-raising, often heart-rending, case histories.
Using examples ranging from basketball training to the tactics of civil rights leaders, he attempts to reveal the sources of such elusive qualities as risktaking, drive and sheer bloody-mindedness. The results are not necessarily reassuring. At one point the inescapable conclusion is that, if you want your children to be highachievers, the worst thing you can do is give them a happy childhood. …