Malcom Gladwell: Required Reading for Everyone?

david-and-goliath_malcolm-gladwellIn January, a federal judge in Portland, Oregon, ordered an eco-terrorist to read Malcom Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath, while in prison to learn about non-violent protest.

All of Gladwell’s books should be required reading—for everyone. His accounts of often mundane, everyday events turn conventional wisdom on its head.

In David and Goliath, Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, to cope with a disability,  to lose a parent, attend a mediocre school, or to suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.

He shows how people labeled as underdogs use that to their advantage and prevail through the elements of shrewdness and surprise, beginning with the biblical tale of David and Goliath and moving on to such historical figures such as Lawrence of Arabia and Martin Luther King Jr.; he also looks the Battle of Britain and developing cancer medicine, and he demonstrates how certain academic disadvantages may lead to greater confidence and a better chance of success in later life.

Gladwell’s other books include:


My favorite to date. In Outliers, Gladwell examines the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful, then asks: What makes high-achievers different?

He suggests we pay too much attention to what successful people are like and too little attention to where they are from: their culture, family, generation, and the unique experiences of their childhoods.

He questions whether anyone is born with innate talent, instead pointing to other factors, including date of birth and 10,000 hours of practice, which may actually play greater roles in determining success in a given discipline.

What the Dog Saw

Covering topics that range from dog rearing to ketchup to the “pill” to mamograms to financial investing to pit bulls, Gladwell “turns the rock over” and looks at things with an analytical yet fresh perspective. He argues that most people, even the so-called experts and pundits, often come to the wrong conclusions about life’s lessons. Just reading the table of contents furrows one’s brow.

The biggest lesson I took from What the Dog Saw was “expect the unexpected” (nothing new, but something we all tend to forget at times). That’s the mantra of Nassim Taleb, who made millions on Wall Street by betting on major “corrections” during big bull markets and the widely held belief that nothing can stop them. While the masses—and even many insiders—buy into the stock market’s big run-up, Taleb short-sells under-valued stocks that will pay off big-time if (and when) the values drop suddenly and precipitously. Sort of like taking the long odds at the track on the dark horse.

In the title story, dog whisperer Cesar Millan demonstrates how to tame unruly pets—a lesson not just for dog rearing.

In Part Two he illustrates the difference between a “mystery” (not enough information) and a “puzzle” (too much information), and why the distinction is critical to problem solving.

Next on my Gladwell list: his earlier books The Tipping Point (which explores the tipping point phenomenon, that moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips and spreads like wildfire) and Blink (about choices that seem to be made in an instant—in the blink of an eye—that actually aren’t as simple as they seem).

Agree or disagree with Gladwell, his writings give us an opportunity to think and rethink, and question conventional wisdom or long-held beliefs, and that’s something we can all benefit from a little more of, recalling that at one time conventional wisdom asserted that the Sun revolved around a flat Earth, among other myths (some of which persist to this day).

About Polishing Your Prose

Larry M Edwards is an award-winning investigative journalist, author, editor and publishing consultant. He is the author of three books, and has edited dozens of nonfiction and fiction book manuscripts. Under Wigeon Publishing, he has produced six books. As author, "Dare I Call It Murder? A Memoir of Violent Loss" won First Place in the San Diego Book Awards in 2012 (unpublished memoir) and 2014, Best Published Memoir. The book has also been nominated for a number of awards, including: Pulitzer Prize, Benjamin Franklin Award, Washington State Book Award, and One Book, One San Diego. As Editor, "Murder Survivor’s Handbook: Real-Life Stories, Tips & Resources" won the Gold Award in the 2015 Benjamin Franklin Book Awards, Self-Help. For a sample edit and cost estimate, contact Larry: larry [at] larryedwards [dot] com -- -- --
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