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

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  26,957 ratings  ·  3,251 reviews
Malcolm Gladwell, host of the podcast Revisionist History and #1 bestselling author of The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, David and Goliath, and What the Dog Saw, 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? ...more
Published September 10th 2019 by Allen Lane
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Maria I think the same could be said about Pinker. As a psycho-linguist, he is a genius. As a social scientist, not so much. My opinion of Pinker has also…moreI think the same could be said about Pinker. As a psycho-linguist, he is a genius. As a social scientist, not so much. My opinion of Pinker has also gone from profound admiration to contempt with his latest books, basically that overall today things are better for humanity, so we should complain so much about the injustices and atrocities occurring now and especially since finding out he wrote a letter to the court supporting Jeff Epstein's predatory practices.
He definitely is not the best judge of people, at least that is the most generous interpretation of his actions.(less)
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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Emily May
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 “
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
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
Oct 26, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, hell-no
TW: detailed descriptions of rape and pedophilia

If it were possible to give a book negative stars, this would be a -10 for me.

Malcolm Gladwell is incredibly influential. From books to podcasts to TED talks, he seems to be everywhere and his story-based approach reaches a large number of people who don't question his credentials as a journalist (with no scientific training) who writes about science. I enjoyed Blink and Outliers despite the often dodgy claims Gladwell makes based on studies that
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
UPDATE 9/23/19
I have now changed this to one star. The more I read about this and other pseudo psych crap he no no. The enjoyment of some parts of the book does not outweigh the total garbage of parts of it. Two examples are linked below, with a particularly shocking tidbit from one:

The most important part of the first link:
Gladwell: You know I have that chapter on Jerry Sandusky in my book, and it’s all
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 Happierpodcast, can't wait for that. ...more
Nov 12, 2019 marked it as don-t-count  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: do-not-be-misled
Not for me, unless I feel like doing a rant-review. Which I'm not ruling out.

Allie's insightful review on excusing those who excused pedophiles:

Leftbanker's thoughtful comments on the Sandra Bland case:

Guardian's review on the obviousness of Gladwell's talking points and race-blind approach:

Atlantic's review on the lack of thesis:

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
Sep 20, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If this had just been stories about spies and the meeting between Hernán Cortés and Montezuma or whatever, I would have rated it five stars. There’s no question that Malcolm Gladwell is a good storyteller, I just wish that he would leave it at that and stop trying to shoe-horn a bunch of tall tales into some sort of coherent statement about the state of the world. I’m not a scientist, but I think that I know science when I see it. I ain’t seeing it here.

“The death of Sandra Bland is what happens
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 05, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Peter Tillman
Off to a rousing start, and written to Gladwell's usual high standards. He does his homework, and surprises us at many turns. The Nature review that follows is full & fair. I doubt that I will find anything substantial to add. But I didn't end up liking the book as much as I expected. 3.5 stars, rounded down for the wandering and discursive narrative, and the inconclusive & disappointing ending.

So: read Nature's review first, and if you are intrigued, and especially if you have liked
Sep 21, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Well. I think I’ve gotta jump off the Malcolm Gladwell bandwagon. This book really irritated me.

First of all, with his previous books, the main argument has been very clear. But ‘Talking with Strangers’ is directionless and, at times, confusing. I didn’t even know what he meant by “strangers” as his definition seemed to keep changing. And I found myself wondering what his point was on more than one occasion.

Furthermore, Gladwell has an annoying habit of presenting his opinions or his “research
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What to say about Gladwell? I read everything he writes and I listen to his podcasts. Even as I cringe when he oversells his simplistic theories and misinterprets academic data to fit into cute stories. There are a lot of great stories in this book and some new takes on old ones, but at the end of the day the lens through which he demands we see these stories (i.e. our "default to truth" in talking to strangers) doesn't work. Sandra Bland's exchange with the officer did not result in her death ...more
David Wineberg
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tanja Berg
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this book right after I had managed a social gaffe - or so I thought. After I separated from my husband this summer, I started dancing swing. Not to look for anything, but to get out of the house and learn something new. Most of the people at the course were in pairs or retirees. Except a boy in his 30’s. We started talking and we started going to the dance evenings on Wednesdays in addition to the Monday classes. I would dance with others, but he would only dance with me. So I ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Traci at The Stacks
This book has some MAJOR issues and was pretty enraging and frustrating. The biggest technical issue is that there is no definition of “stranger” which allows Gladwell to mold his thin arguments to any hot button topic he chooses. It feels like a publicity stunt to cram as many controversial people/events into the book for maximum shock value. The other huge issue is about how he discusses rape/racism/abuse without talking about race/power/toxic masculinity etc. it’s negligent and dangerous. ...more
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

I really enjoy Malcolm Gladwell's books. I enjoy his writing style a lot and his books are so thought provoking. He leaves you thinking about things you never would have thought about, in ways you never would have considered. I like how he gets you to look at things from different perspectives

I am torn on this book. I did really enjoy reading it but I did not agree with everything he said, especially in the areas regarding racism and sexual abuse. The situation involving Sandra Bland
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Gladwell is an excellent storyteller, but I think he's very wrong on some of his major arguments.

First of all, he seems sort of surprised that people are gullible and that social trust is important for social animals to thrive. He talks about the Milgram experiments, and gets lost in the weeds about how they were bad theater, underemphasizing the main point, i.e. that 65% of people were sheep who obeyed authority figures telling them to do insane evil things. The implication for what he's
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.
Jul 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Brandon Forsyth
I really like Malcolm Gladwell, and I think some of his writing belongs in the Hall of Fame, but it’s hard to read this book and not feel like he’s sort of missed the point. No chapter on race? No chapter on gender? I can (maybe) understand trying to look beyond those things to the root of what makes us so bad at interacting with other people, but it feels like many of the examples he’s taken here (Sandra Bland in particular) have huge factors of sexism and racism that are key to understanding ...more
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
Like Cortes, we need translators to make sense of the world. Talking to Strangers is about why we are so bad at that act of translation

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know at the core set out to show why we are so bad at communicating with strangers and what gets in the way. Gladwell, through a series of stories showed how talking to strangers can go really far left.

Is this my favourite Gladwell book? No. I felt the book meandered a lot. I felt a lot was
Fascinating read and great storytelling, but the theory is shaky at best. It could all be summed up by saying “Communication is really difficult”—be it with strangers or close friends, family and loved ones for that matter. Why limit it to strangers when even a close one can turn out to be a case of: “But I never imagined he/she could do a thing like that, not my own sweet child!”

Gladwell takes several high profile cases most of us are familiar with, to make his point that talking to strangers
Laura ☾
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gladwell is brilliant as always,making engaging connections and providing clever insights.

In Talking to Strangers, Gladwelltackles questions such as:What can we actually gather from interactions?Can we really assess a strangers character?How does this affect our lives? Our interactions with authorities? Why is it so easy for strangers to deceive us?

In exploring these questions, he weaves together illustrations from the intelligence community, policing, policy, the justicesystem, the effects of
Robin Bonne
Nov 22, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Clearly the author has never been sexually assaulted.
If you find reading graphic descriptions of rape and pedophelia upsetting, this isn’t a book you’ll enjoy.

The author is dismissive of rape victims. He concludes that the people who protect predators and disbelief rape victims are “defaulting to truth.” There were several times he defends the people who protected pedophiles like Jerry Sandusky and Nassar. This section of the book was horribly disgusting. His “default truth” in this case means
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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 ...more
“The right way to talk to strangers is with caution and humility.” 8 likes
“The conviction that we know others better than they know us—and that we may have insights about them they lack (but not vice versa)—leads us to talk when we would do well to listen and to be less patient than we ought to be when others express the conviction that they are the ones who are being misunderstood or judged unfairly. The same convictions can make us reluctant to take advice from others who cannot know our private thoughts, feelings, interpretations of events, or motives, but all too willing to give advice to others based on our views of their past behavior, without adequate attention to their thoughts, feelings, interpretations, and motives. Indeed, the biases documented here may create a barrier to the type of exchanges of information, and especially to the type of careful and respectful listening, that can go a long way to attenuating the feelings of frustration and resentment that accompany interpersonal and intergroup conflict.” 5 likes
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