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

In his latest book, Malcolm Gladwell challenges the reader to see the upside in what the world defines as disadvantage.

This is a cautionary tale about being misled by the prevailing view of what constitutes advantage — the best schools, the most money, the biggest guns. It also challenges us to see the upside in what the world defines as disadvantage.

Gladwell uses examples from all walks of life — a budding scientist wrongly chooses to attend Brown University; a movie producer finds that wealth gets in the way of imparting his values to his children; a girls’ basketball team wins by playing the game differently than expected. The author convincingly makes the case that it’s better to define your unique path to success rather than letting the prevailing power structure do it for you.

Regarding education, he debunks the received wisdom that smaller class sizes always get better results. In the world of warfare, he shows how Lawrence of Arabia used Bedouin agility and experience to defeat a better-armed foe. In civil rights, he finds an example in Martin Luther King and his team, who outsmarted the racist authorities of the US South by adhering to peace while inviting them to resort to violence.

The author asks us to consider what the world would have lost if the impressionists had not flouted the rules set by a hidebound art establishment.

There are real-life lessons here for anyone who faces, or will face, obstacles that seem insurmountable. And that probably means us all.