Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Home Sweet Home with David and Goliath

All of New Jersey, it seems, is dealing with a snowstorm. The public high school where I work closed a little before noon. I figured it would take an hour to drive home. Instead, it took three hours to drive 40 miles. The roads were clogged with every other New Jerseyean who had been let out early to beat the storm. I had my latest audiobook, Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath, to keep me company. I ended up finishing the book. Friends have been gushing about Gladwell for years; now I know why.

Gladwell is a writer with the New Yorker and he wrote "The Tipping Point" and "Blink" and a few other best-selling books I have not read. He's what I would call a pop sociologist. He looks at social trends and social assumptions and finds aspects of them we do overlook. "David and Goliath" takes a look at why underdogs often win.

Some critics pan this book and others by Gladwell by claiming he cherry picks uplifting anecdotes that fit his preconceived notions. As the mother of a dyslexic child, however, I found the book particularly resonated with my own experiences of raising our son. Gladwell spends a good deal of time in this book talking about "desirable difficulties" and how the disability of dyslexia can result in unexpected gifts, such as the ability to listen well, and become to so accustomed to failure so as not to fear it. As I listened, I recalled how our younger son has the gift of grit because learning to speak did not come easily to him. When he was a toddler, and all the big kids had quit sledding because the hill had become too icy to walk back up, Lucas did not stop sledding. Instead, he crawled up the icy hill and kept sledding.

Gladwell writes: “the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.” He's been panned by social scientists and book reviewers as a flawed thinker. The thing is, the fact that he identifies as a Christian makes sense to me. The claim of Christianity is that the world is front of us is not the world that truly matters. As I drove home through the snowstorm this afternoon, Gladwell's unrelenting optimism reminded me of what Saint Paul says: 

"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose."


  1. Well-done! I loved reading this one!!

  2. I hope your long drive home was followed by some delicious time snuggled in the house with your favorite people/food/books/crafts.