Different slants on wins, losses through time

When the day comes that you realize you have read nothing but fiction for several books, it is perhaps time to let Malcolm Gladwell or someone like him bounce some different ideas off your brain.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

By Malcolm Gladwell

$20 Little, Brown and Company

When the day comes that you realize you have read nothing but fiction for several books, it is perhaps time to let Malcolm Gladwell or someone like him bounce some different ideas off your brain.

He seems to catch a different slant on everyday occurrences and the results are informative and interesting.

The story of David and Goliath, from the Old Testament, is known by most readers, but here is a different slant on what happened.

According to Gladwell, David, small and armed only with a slingshot had the battle in the bag from the beginning.

The Philistines couldn’t know that their overgrown hero Goliath probably suffered from acromegaly (overproduction of human growth hormone) and that he probably had impaired vision.

So David comes within slinging distance and fells the giant with a rock to the mid-forehead.

Although not referred to here, the Bible says David was also pumped with the power of the Lord, which probably lent something to the battle.

So who was the underdog?

The big guy.

The expression ‘the bigger they are, the harder they fall’ probably originated on the same day.

Gladwell takes many similar incidents and weaves them inside out, to show us that the ‘winner’ doesn’t always win.

He takes up the modern problem of overcrowding in a classroom and the assumption that very small classes are advantageous.

He points out the learning that goes on in a well-disciplined class of 28 or more students and why its better.

He tells us when the top-ranking university is not the one to attend.

When the problem of a “little fish in a big pond” leads to “relative deprivation,” big is not always beautiful.

The only thing that intimidates me in a book of this type are the charts and graphs.

No doubt they prove the case the author is making, but deep-seated math anxiety turns me to mush.

If this is not the case with you, then enjoy. Gladwell loves charts and graphs.

In this book, you can read of all the advantages of having dyslexia. That’s right — and the author proves it with case studies.

He calls this part of the book The Theory of Desirable Difficulty.

Here we are told how a upbringing of deprivation and poverty can be an advantage.

He has a chapter on the civil rights movement in Birmingham, and how school children were put in jail, hosed with high pressure hoses and had the dogs turned on them, and that they won.

The Irish Troubles, Amish forgiveness, support and succor of the Jews in wartime France — it’s all here and highly readable.

The subtitle, Underdogs Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, is apt.

An underdog or misfit who does not buy into the name can battle the giants that come his way.

It has always been so.

Peggy Freeman is a local freelance books reviewer.