Talking to Strangers (Review)

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Author: Malcom Gladwell

Genre: Self-help

Originally Published: September 10, 2019

Add it to your shelf: Goodreads

Purchase the book: Amazon

Description from Amazon:

“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.”‘

Review

This is the first book I have decided to consume in audiobook format, in the past I have always chose to read books traditionally, ebooks are as far as I would stray, but in this case I think Malcom Gladwell offers a more rich experience in the audio world. If you choose the audio format you get to hear the real audio of the quotes from the book, anytime Gladwell had access to the original sound clips he would use them. He included a theme song in the book as well, “Hell You Talmbout” by Janelle Monae. In the beginning of the book, which he narrates on his own, he mentions that this should feel like a high quality podcast. He couldn’t have been more accurate.

The book tackles the issues we face when talking to each other. How can we tell when we are being misled? How do we know we can trust what someone tells us? He delves into these topics and uses real-life examples of situations where these kinds of interactions happened and had drastic consequences. You can tell the research was superbly done, as is the case in all of Gladwell’s work, and being able to hear the real audio adds a layer to the narrative.

He goes in depth on the way we can read someone’s face, and if those facial attributes are the same across cultures, or if each culture emotes in a different way. He talks about why we default to trust when faced with a situation where we think we may be being lied to. He even talks about the way Hitler was able to convince people to trust him, when looking back on it, it was clear he was unworthy of any of the praise or following he garnered.

Gladwell does such a great job of offering up the facts and presenting them in a compelling story that makes you want to keep reading, or in this case listening, he is a master of grabbing your attention and teaching you something. Oftentimes it’s something you didn’t even know you wanted to learn. He makes a topic that, at first, seems out of reach for most of us and presents it in a way that is easy to digest. I came away from this book with more knowledge of how we as humans interact with each other and some of the ways we can avoid mistaking intentions of others.

The book touches on really heavy subjects, and analyzes them in a way that lets us think about whether or not they were avoidable and how the way we interact with each other could stop horrible things from happening without reason. I find it so interesting that everyone reacts to things in different ways, and the way I might convey anger or surprise could be completely different from the way you might. In some situations that difference in our expressions and the way we react to things could be the difference between life and death.

This is a book I would recommend to any adult, with the warning that there is a lot of mature content and things that might be hard to listen to. If you have trouble reading about sensitive topics, then I would caution you to take care when looking into this book. I think it is a great look at our society and why we interact with each other in the ways we do, as well as some of the things we can change to make things better. I will say I loved the experience the audiobook version provided and if you have the means to experience it in this format I would urge you to do so.

As always, thank you so much for reading! If you enjoyed this review or have thoughts on Malcom Gladwell or his book let’s discuss in the comments below or reach out to me on social media! Check back for new posts (at least) every Wednesday and Saturday and sign-up via email to be sure you never miss anything!

Author: Jacob @ Books and Pixels

Jacob is a blogger with a passion for books and video games. He is a college student studying marketing and hopes to one day turn his passion for writing and marketing into a career. You can find his work here on Books and Pixels as well as the up and coming sports blog The Spark.

4 thoughts

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