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

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  239,896 ratings  ·  20,314 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
Paperback, 379 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Hachette USA
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Summer Gladwell writes mainstream non-fiction for a non-academic audience. Of COURSE, it's not going to be an intellectually rigorous as an article in a peer…moreGladwell writes mainstream non-fiction for a non-academic audience. Of COURSE, it's not going to be an intellectually rigorous as an article in a peer-reviewed journal.

I, for one, enjoy it as it is. (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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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
Oct 26, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 a
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 “misu
Feb 23, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When I started this book, I was convinced that I would at least give it 4 stars. Malcolm Gladwell is a great narrator, and the audiobook is very well produced, including music, voice actors, and excerpts from real interviews and videotapes. He explores interesting topics ranging from myopia, default to truth, and the way we misread others’ facial expressions. However, I have huge issues with his limiting takes on rape and police brutality. He takes several big-name cases (Sandra Bland, Brock Tur ...more
Mar 27, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Absolutely no one at all, ever
Who gave Malcolm Gladwell the authority to invalidate the trauma of thousands of people? I can't believe trees sacrificed their lives so this piece of garbage could be printed 😃

This might just be the most problematic book I've ever read, and I don't say that lightly. It was so disgustingly, blatantly wrong in all ways that I was tempted to throw my phone across the room.

In this book, Malcolm Gladwell introduces the idea that many tragedies across the globe were caused by miscommunication between
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
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
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
Malcolm Gladwell is viewed as a hugely influential writer and I was eagerly anticipating reading this, my first taste of his work, a body of his thinking on how we, the people, are extraordinarily gullible when it comes to strangers, all too easily taken in by them in our general eagerness to trust rather than be more cautious. He gives a raft of well known examples from history, such as Neville Chamberlain being all to willing to take Hitler at face value, and more recent contemporary examples, ...more
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
Nov 12, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Most damning self-analysis ever: "I'd rather be interesting than be right" --Malcolm Gladwell, to Jane Pauley, CBS Sunday Morning, 06/20/21

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-bl
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
Sep 21, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, psychology
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
Traci Thomas
Oct 04, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
REREAD REVIEW: this book was even worse the second time through. This kind of victim blaming bile is a huge part of what upholds white supremacy and toxic masculinity. Everything below holds, but I’m somehow more enraged this time. The persuasive skills displayed in crafting Gladwells arguments are sickening and in bad faith.

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 mo
Jun 27, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm more than a little gobsmacked by this one.

When did Malcolm Gladwell get red-pilled into a right wing apologist? Or is it just after countless bestselling books and a lucrative podcast empire he thought he'd just go for it with this Fox News ready hot-take?

I mean it starts with Sandra Bland, pulled over in Texas, arrested, jailed and found dead by suicide in her cell three days later. In a book called Talking to Strangers about our inability to properly communicate with people we don't know,
Elyse  Walters
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Audiobook.. narrated by Malcolm Gladwell

Being honest here.... a lot of this book went right over my head. There is so much I don’t know - it’s pathetic & embarrassing.
Also reading this ( listening) during the last few days of the year was challenging my lazy brain.
I knew it would have been helpful to look up information - (visit my buddy, Google), but I was often soaking in our warm pool, or outside walking.
I was a lazy reader/listener with this book....
but thankfully I own it... thanks to my
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. ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know, Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Timothy Gladwell CM is an English-born Canadian journalist, author, and public speaker.

Miscommunication, interactions and assumptions people make when dealing with those that they don't know. Talking to Strangers is a classically Gladwellian intellectual adventure, a challenging and controversial excursion through history, psychology, and scandals taken straight from the news. He revisits the decept
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Gladwell is an excellent storyteller, but I think that sometimes he's dangerously wrong.
When the president of Penn State hears about a former employee coming back to the college at night to "horse around" with a naked 11-year-old boy, well the most likely explanation is not benign. Gladwell keeps saying people default to the "truth" and to the "most likely" explanation. But in examples like this people are defaulting to denial. And that's not okay for those whose job is to be suspicious and res
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell appears to be a contentious book: the readers and reviewers have either hated it or loved it, nothing in between. I selected the audiobook version because the author usually reads his books, as he did in this one. The audiobook had an added bonus of providing the reader with actual or reproduced interviews and transcripts of the cases he used as examples. Gladwell extensively used well-known cases that show that, when dealing with people we do not know, w ...more
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 c
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 b ...more
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 disbelieve 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 mean
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-library, 2019
We think we can easily see into the hearts of others based on the flimsiest of clues. We jump at the chance to judge strangers. We would never do that to ourselves, of course. We are nuanced and complex and enigmatic. But the stranger is easy. If I can convince you of one thing in this book, let it be this: Strangers are not easy.
Talking to Strangers is a book with a bold premise: trying to explain why a young black woman named Sandra Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation in rural
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
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
I haven’t been all that impressed by the last few books Gladwell has written and wasn’t even going to read this one at all – but then a friend at work said it related to some of the things I’ve been working on at the moment, and so I got hold of it – and I’m glad I did. In some ways this book could be summed up by saying that we are programmed to trust and believe people and that rather than needing to suspend disbelief, people often have to work very hard to lose our trust. For instance, Americ ...more
May 07, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-clubs
I never would have picked up this book if it hadn’t been a book club selection.
So, Gladwell starts off by saying we are horribly bad at sussing out liars from our face to face interactions. Of course, my initial thought was that explains why Trump loves Putin and Kim Jong Un.
Gladwell’s basic premise is that humans have a default setting to believe others and in order to believe someone is lying there has to be a lot of unexplainable circumstances. So, while it’s easy to think you’d never fall
After listening to this audiobook, I'm starting to get the hype behind audiobooks! Gladwell narrated his book perfectly; the added soundbites from the historical figures mentioned was a fantastic addition, too. ...more
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
David Rubenstein
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
This is a wonderful book about major issues when talking to people. I thought, initially, that the book would be about everyday conversations during everyday interactions. Not at all. The book is really about the assumptions that we make about other people, and how those assumptions can be drastically wrong. It is about belief systems, and how we react when we encounter evidence that is contrary to those beliefs. Malcolm Gladwell took me into worlds that I had never even considered.

The main poin
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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

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“You believe someone not because you have no doubts about them. Belief is not the absence of doubt. You believe someone because you don’t have enough doubts about them.” 84 likes
“To assume the best about another is the trait that has created modern society. Those occasions when our trusting nature gets violated are tragic. But the alternative - to abandon trust as a defense against predation and deception - is worse.” 55 likes
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