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Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  2,421 ratings  ·  394 reviews
In July 2015, a young black woman named Sandra Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation in rural Texas. Minutes later she was arrested and jailed. Three days later, she committed suicide in her cell. What went wrong? Talking to Strangers is all about what happens when we encounter people we don't know, why it often goes awry, and what it says about us.

How do we
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Allen Lane
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Cindy Schneider Malcolm Gladwell has a gift for taking the seemingly mundane, or invisible, and showing us the major influence it has in our lives.

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4.05  · 
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 ·  2,421 ratings  ·  394 reviews

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As I sat at the airport, head deep in a book, I suddenly heard, "Hi!" What? To my left stood a handsome man. "I just thought I should say hi since I see you're reading Talking to Strangers."

I too thought Malcolm Gladwell's new book was going to teach me how to literally talk with people I don't know, but as always he turns all my assumptions on their head with this book. If that's what the book was about, that stranger and I might be on a date by now.

If I can convince you of one thing in this
Gretchen Rubin
I always feel lucky when I get to read a book before its official publication date. A fascinating, accessible examination of the miscommunications that can arise when we talk to strangers. We're going to interview Malcolm Gladwell for the Happier podcast, can't wait for that.
Never Trust a Blood Relative

Talking to Strangers is an elaboration of a simple (trivial?) idea: It’s very difficult to tell when people are lying. According to Timothy Levine, the academic psychologist on whom Gladwell relies for his basic argument, the presumption that people tell the truth is almost universal, a few Holy Fools (and, I suppose, Judge Judy) excepted. Levine calls this his Truth Default Theory. Gladwell applies it entertainingly, if rather repetitively, to cases of duplicity rang
Emily May
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2019
I was trying to work through my thoughts on this book when Goodreads did an interview with Malcolm Gladwell and this one thing he said just made everything clear for me:
“I've never been a writer who's looked to persuade his readers; I'm more interested in capturing their interest and curiosity.”

Because, truthfully, I don't know that Gladwell did fully convince me of his way of thinking with this book. I don't know that I actually agree that he can draw a link between the police officer “misund
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
9/2/2019--I'm knocking this down to two stars. Gladwell's really bad takes on things like race and sexual assault just don't deserve an okay rating.

Wow, does this book ever suffer from a severe case of foot-in-mouth disease!

I almost didn’t make it past the introduction. In my pre-publication copy, Gladwell writes, “The Sandra Bland case came in the middle of a strange interlude in American public life” and then goes on to discuss a series of cases of police violence against black people that ha
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-psychology
I'm glad that those nice people at Goodreads chose me randomly to receive an old-school paper copy of this book, free of charge. It will be a novel feeling to actually have read a controversial book before it hits the shelves and generates the predictably shallow hot takes in the few moments before the world's attention moves onto something else.

Perhaps I'm engaging in a display of unwarranted optimism to think that a mere book can have an effect on the way people think, but this is what Talking
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs-2019
In Talking to Strangers, I believe all Malcolm really wants to tell us, is everything our parents use to tell us: 1. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers (or in magazines, or the internet.) 2. Trust only family, not strangers; but be careful everywhere. 3. Don’t believe anything anyone tells you until you check it out first. (This could’ve meant, ask Mom and/or Dad, go to the library, ask someone we know and is smart.)
Most people have their default setting at TRUST; we want to believe
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaways
This is certainly a provocative book, enough so that despite my anger and frustration I finished reading it in the hope it would conclude with a complex and thoughtful analysis of why our differences and history result in so much misunderstanding when strangers interact with each other.

Sadly my expectations were not realized. The real life examples that he used were not truly examined in depth and the lack of complexity often left me frustrated. I may just be unable to feel any sympathy for a c
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thanks so much for choosing me as winner in the giveaway !

I loved this book !! I always thought about the disparity of meeting someone who seemed 'so nice' and someone you wanted to develop a friendship or relationship with, only to have an opposite view shortly after. Did I misjudge ? Am I too picky, critical and judgmental ? Are they really a sociopath ?

This book explains a lot of that thru mismatching, which is basically how someone appears at a given time as opposed to who they really are. A
What I love about Gladwell's books is the thing that I think many people find frustrating: I don't agree with everything he says. But what brings me back is that he finds interesting threads and premises and manages to weave them together in such a way that it makes me think about my own beliefs a little different.

This book begins with the Sandra Bland case. Why did she die? Why did this situation even occur? It then goes into looking at a series of incidents of the CIA overlooking spies from C
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended, with a lot of inner conflict and trigger warnings

[Thank you to and Hachette Audio for my free copy of the audiobook for review]

I am a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan, and I jumped at the chance to listen to his newest release. Gladwell is an excellent reader of his own work, and he takes it up a notch here by translating his book into a full audio production with music, news clips, and voice reenactments. Fans of his podcast, Revisionist History, or other radio shows like This A
David Wineberg
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Malcolm Gladwell’s latest foray into human folly is its seemingly innate trust in strangers. We assume strangers are transparent, and can take what they do and say at face value. Sometimes we are wrong, but assuming everyone is evil is far worse. Talking To Strangers focuses (mostly) on a number of very high profile criminal cases we are all likely to be familiar with. They include the Amanda Knox case, the Jerry Sandusky case, the Brock Turner case, the Sandra Bland case, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, ...more
Megan Bell
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
This was my first Malcolm Gladwell, and now I have to go read everything else! In Talking to Strangers, Gladwell investigates what goes wrong when we interact with people we don’t know, using dramatic scenarios ripped from the headlines, history, psychology, and criminology. Gladwell begins and ends with the tragic death of Sandra Bland, and it’s impossible to ignore how urgently we need better strategies of understanding strangers.
Jul 30, 2019 rated it liked it
I’m always fascinated and provoked by Gladwell’s work—this book is no exception. But there are some big leaps here that make me itchy. Still processing.

Bottom line: We’re generally terrible at understanding the actions of strangers, and when things take a turn for the worse/unexpected, we blame the stranger.

Got it. Feel it. And I like how Gladwell sheds light on the Sandra Bland case. The section on Brock Turner? It troubled me.
In Gladwell's latest work, he explores our misconception and often mistakably inconsistence of innocence or guilt, happy or sad, trustworthy or criminal. Reflecting on historic situations, from Hitler to Sylvia Plath, Bernie Madoff to Amanda Knox, humankind has made slow efforts to uncover what someone else is really feeling or who they truly are. This book does not offer any advice for a quick fix but reminds us all how terribly difficult it is to really "see" the person sitting next to you. I ...more
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read a sample of this book that I obtained as an employee of Hachette book group. Longer review closer to pub date.
Sep 21, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I DNF'd this book after reading too many cringey statements from Gladwell. He wants to categorize a whole range of evils -- from the victimization of unarmed black people (Sandra Bland) to women being raped at colleges parties (Brock Turner) -- as mere "communication" issues between people.

Sure, there might be some element of miscommunication, but it completely misses the point that there are much larger problems and bigger things going on beyond that.

I get that he's trying to cram these situa
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
When we meet people for the first time - a stranger - we are programmed to want a positive interaction with that person. We greet them courteously, as we have been taught; we look for body language cues and cues in what they say or how they say things that we are familiar with, that we can relate to. We want to be liked by this new person, and have a good exchange of whatever it may be - medical advice, shop assistants, the police, our children's friends, potential work colleagues, love interest ...more
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, non-fic, netgalley
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of Talking to Strangers.

I was stoked when I saw my request was approved.

I'm a Malcolm Gladwell fan and I love his writing.

In Talking to Strangers, Mr. Gladwell examines some of the most controversial scandals in American history, from the spy games our government dealt with in regards to Fidel Castro, to the horrific crimes perpetrated by pedophiles Sandusky and doctor pervert Nassar, to the tragedy of Sandra Bland, from the context that p
Morelia (Strandedinbooks)
I’m actually very unsure about my rating. Perhaps I stand with 3.5, but let’s stick to 3 for a bit because I’m stuck and have many many thoughts.

For starters, the first half of the audiobook was really good! I appreciated learning about new cases that I’d never even heard about and getting to explore the topic about how and why we suck at talking to or dealing with strangers, but then...

The entire coverage of the Brock Turner case in this one just didn’t sit right with me. I felt that the author
Peter Tillman
Nature's review:
In 1996, an operative in the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) — Ana Belén Montes, known as “the Queen of Cuba” for her specialist knowledge — was suspected of being a double agent. A counter-intelligence officer, reviewing her file, decided that she had passed the test: “This woman is gonna be the next Director of Intelligence for DIA. She’s just fabulous.” She was arrested in 2001.

She was not even a particularly accomplished s
Sep 11, 2019 marked it as will-not-read
I have decided to not read this book based on the statement from this review: "I don't know that I actually agree that he can draw a link between the police officer 'misunderstanding' Sandra Bland and Neville Chamberlain “misunderstanding” Hitler and make that work. And I don't know that I agree - actually, no, I'm pretty sure I don't - about the way he views the Stanford rape case as a 'misunderstanding.'" I don't need more hate crime or rape apology in my life.
Enrique Polanco
Gladwell at his weakest

The positive is, Gladwell always keeps me interested. He somehow finds the most interesting anecdotes and stories. Even the ones you have heard before---he has a way of making them seem like there is always more than meets the eye and that they are more interesting. I was never bored listening to this because even if you don't like one section, he's almost on to something else.

But then..

His thing is to take stories that on the surface are completely unrelated and tries to jam them together
John Munday
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First of all, I would like to thank my coworker for getting me this ARC (Thanks KC!). I have always loved Gladwell's books and podcasts, and this title is no exception. "Talking to Strangers" explores the difficulties that we face every day when talking to other people, through historical anecdotes, psychological studies and statistics, and research in sociology. It builds up a foundation with each chapter and then ends by bringing everything together when looking at one specific case. The book ...more
Full disclosure: I got through the introduction and first half of the chapter. Not continuing any further than this.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this book for months. Unfortunately, it is an ode to the obvious, and an oversimplification of the complex. The obvious: spies are able to get away with lying because we default to believing people. I don’t know about you, but I learned the value of poker face playing monopoly at six years old.

This was the biggest issue for me, and ultimately prevented m
Jerry Smith
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, 2019_fav

I am an unabashed Gladwell fan. I love everything he does. I've also listened to him so much that I hear his voice in my head while reading which is a nice touch.

He has a knack for weaving a thread through seemingly disjointed topics and crafting a tale. This is no different, at times I thought the topics were too far apart but he pulled it off. I read it very rapidly and will need to go back and re-read the Jerry Sandusky parts, it's almost like he was saying he didn't believe it.. Otherwise
Andrew Wolgemuth
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, culture
My favorite from Gladwell, I think. It's written in his classic style of combining excellent story-telling with interesting academic studies and poignant narration, which I find irresistibly enjoyable (oh...I'll read just one more section before calling it a night) and compelling (until I read the articles pushing back on his claims!).

Gladwell's core theme and thesis here makes this his most important book. It's timely too, and - I hope - helpful for day-to-day life and interaction with stranger
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Classic Malcolm Gladwell. Take something we think is simple and show us just how complicated it is. This newest book shows us how terrible we are at reading people we don't know, and the detrimental effects that can come from that lack of ability. I have much to ponder after listening to this "enhanced" audiobook that was so brilliantly done it felt like a jumbo episode of RadioLab or a similarly styled podcast.
Sep 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
3.5 stars. This is my first Gladwell book so I want to get that out right away. While this book does make me want to read more of his work, this book was just fine for me. It wasn’t until the very end that he tied in all of the stories and even then it seemed like a stretch on why they were put in. What I did like was that he added actual recordings (when available) of the people being discussed in the stories. For this reason, I would recommend the audio and not the physical copy. It’s the same ...more
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Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers—The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath. He is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History, which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and Broken Record, where he, Rick Rubin, and Bruce Headlam interview musici ...more