No Spoiler Book Review
Talking to Strangers is not about *exactly* what I thought it was about. I thought this book would be about human psychology and sociology with the goal of making it easier for me to actually talk to strangers. Or even other humans in general. Instead, it pointed out all the ways we miscommunicate with each other, often disastrously, in an attempt to encourage us to be more mindful??? I am now even less sure of how to talk to stangers…
That’s not to say that I didn’t like this book. I heart Malcolm Gladwell. His books are always thought provoking and intended to better the individual and society. Love, Love, Love!
Talking to Strangers covers a wide range of topics that illustrate the difficulties of interpersonal communication. The first quarter of this book features case studies of spies working for the CIA. I’m sure a lot of people will find this interesting, but it made me feel hopeless about my chances of ever learning how to talk to people. If spies (extremely intelligent and well trained folks) have a hard time understanding each other, what hope is there for me? Luckily, the other topics of this book were fascinating.
Let’s talk about race. I started this book one week before the murder of George Floyd. Finished it as much of the country was on fire over his death. If you are looking for answers and questioning how this could happen again and again, READ THIS BOOK. Gladwell talks about the fear that the police have toward the black community and how they often respond with violence. He shares the studies that have been done on predominately black, high crime areas. He talks about the valuable police training that has been ignored. If you have questions, Gladwell has theories.
“Say his name George Floyd! Say his name!”
Let’s talk about rape. Much of Talking to Strangers is focused on this difficult topic. Gladwell delves into the cases of Brock Turner, Nasser, and Sandusky. Part of this section discusses the topics of binge drinking and consent on college campuses. It really left me feeling like, so many of these occurrences could be avoided with comprehensive sex education. I would be interested to know if this book leads you to the same conclusion.
Gladwell explores several other contributing factors, which allow the Nasser’s and Sandusky’s of the world to abuse people so openly and easily. I won’t spoil the findings for you here, but you will find the theories artfully woven throughout Talking to Strangers.
Talking to Strangers is a great choice for anyone interested in psychology and sociology. If you read and enjoyed Gladwell’s previous books you will like this as well. If you are a fan of the Freakonomics books or podcast you will find this to be interesting.
I recommend listening to this book on audio, it is narrated by Malcolm Gladwell and produced like a podcast. It has a theme song, Hell You Talmbout, and whenever possible it includes actual recorded audio of real life events. This is the best produced audiobook I have ever listened to.
You may also be interested in this book on empowering women, Moment of Lift.
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Malcolm Gladwell, host of the podcast Revisionist History and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Outliers, offers a powerful examination of our interactions with strangers -- and why they often go wrong.
How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn't true?
While tackling these questions, Malcolm Gladwell was not solely writing a book for the page. He was also producing for the ear. In the audiobook version of Talking to Strangers, you'll hear the voices of people he interviewed--scientists, criminologists, military psychologists. Court transcripts are brought to life with re-enactments. You actually hear the contentious arrest of Sandra Bland by the side of the road in Texas. As Gladwell revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath, you hear directly from many of the players in these real-life tragedies. There's even a theme song - Janelle Monae's "Hell You Talmbout."
Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don't know. And because we don't know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.