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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

The highly anticipated new book from Malcom Gladwell, host of the chart-topping podcast Revisionist History

With original archival interviews and musical scoring, this enhanced audiobook edition of Talking to Strangers brings Gladwell’s renowned storytelling to life in his unparalleled narrating style.  

The routine traffic stop that ends in tragedy. The spy who spends years undetected at the highest levels of the Pentagon. The false conviction of Amanda Knox. Why do we so often get other people wrong? Why is it so hard to detect a lie, read a face or judge a stranger's motives?

Through a series of encounters and misunderstandings - from history, psychology and infamous legal cases - Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual adventure into the darker side of human nature, where strangers are never simple and misreading them can have disastrous consequences.

No one challenges our shared assumptions like Malcolm Gladwell. Here he uses stories of deceit and fatal errors to cast doubt on our strategies for dealing with the unknown, inviting us to rethink our thinking in these troubled times.

©2019 Malcolm Gladwell (P)2019 Malcolm Gladwell

Critic reviews

"I love this book...reading it will actually change not just how you see strangers, but how you look at yourself, the news - the world. Reading this book changed me." (Oprah Winfrey)

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people aren't transparent. (done)

Here's a summary of the book:
Human personal interaction is fraught with (systematic) misunderstandings, misjudgements and deciet - it's not 100% transparent or reliable.

That's the whole f'in book! And a bunch of meandering (sometimes moralising) stories to illustrate that point. If you want stories buy the book, if you want to learn or think about something, don't buy the book. That's it. I shall be returning it.

60 people found this helpful

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Utter Bollocks

I was starting to wonder if I was missing something, or was it just a load of vaguely interesting stories along with stating the obvious- people aren’t as they seem. And apparently this makes things really really hard for ignorant men who rape women and cops that arrest black women for near existing. I wasted an audible credit on this crap and I stopped listening immediately after Brock Turner section. Malcolm Gladwell should do something better with his time than overanalyse meaningless drivel and find excuses for people being idiots. Maybe judges should be a better representation of the population rather than just white upper class men and then they might get some bail hearings closer to the mark. I hope I am not the only person feeling disheartened and confused as to how this is even a book....
1 star for performance for the real life audio elements

40 people found this helpful

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Extra Long Revisionist History...

... but not in a bad way. Gladwell borrows heavily from his podcast in both production and story telling; breaking up the chapters into episodes that could stand alone. The thinking behind the piece, as usual, is extremely interesting and the individual stories are brilliantly fleshed out with actual audio which can break up the rare monotony in the narration.

The theme of the book is a worrying look at how we interact with strangers and our human shortcomings. The only issue I have with Gladwell highlighting each of our fallacies is that knowing about them doesn't seem to help navigate around them (see Kahneman on that).

29 people found this helpful

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Thought provoking in content, modern in form

Finally the audio book responds to the podcast format. Gladwell is in typically original form, applying overlooked historical research to contemporary ideas and issues. The book's main treatise, that a we live is a series of systems that are designed to function based on flawed ideas of human behaviour and interaction is well argued. It is the audio book's format, however, that makes this work easy to recommend over so many others. Presented more as an extended radio documentary or podcast, with recordings of interviews and a musical score, rather than adopting the dryer more typical style of audiobooks, the content of the book is offered in a form that allows it to be more engaging than any other audiobook in its category.

14 people found this helpful

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Enraging background music

This book is interesting, if too America- centric for my tastes. MG takes a long time to make a couple of simple points- the argument is heavily padded and I was relieved when I got to the end of it. However the worst aspect of this recording is the tinkly- winky music that can be heard faintly in the background while MG is reading- it drove me up the wall. Please don’t do this on other audiobooks or you’ll lose a large chunk of your audience I’m sure!

10 people found this helpful

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Promising start but failed to deliver

Promising start but failed to deliver on expectation as it was a montage of separate case studies but didnt see how they all merged to make up the story. Just different cases of talking to strangers with no real methods on really improving on this as such.

25 people found this helpful

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absolutely depressing

absolutely depressing and poor narration of a book.
I just waited my credit for this book.

15 people found this helpful

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Classic Gladwell please do not leave it another 6 years

So what can I say. Within the first few minutes I’m driving along with my jaw on the floor- oh my god! All my commutes have been reduced to minutes whilst Malcom takes me on a journey of enlightenment and discovery. Forget counting down the miles, I arrive home and sit on the drive not wanting to turn this off! I have waited so long for your new book and still you fail to disappoint. Simply brilliant !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

57 people found this helpful

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Meanders into nowhere

It starts off with a very interesting premise and chapter 3 is quite excellent but then i fee it goes off a full tangent and doesn’t ever recover where it was meant to be going. It’s as if he has all this material from the podcast and trying to string it together into a book but it’s so disjointed I lost all interest finishing it

21 people found this helpful

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More like a gripping documentary than an audiobook

Gladwell has an incredible ability of taking news stories we all kinda sorta remember but making you reexamine the "facts" as you thought you knew them..

4 people found this helpful

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  • Nick
  • 03-10-19

Not the most compelling MG book Ive read

I am a huge Malcolm Gladwell content fan. However, I have to say that I enjoyed this book the least out of all of the MG books I have read/listened to.

Positives:
I always appreciate Malcom narrating his own audio books - first class.

I was hugely excited by the novelty of including actual recordings in the book i.e. hearing quotes from the very sources themselves and making it into a kind of podcast on steriods. I think this was novel and a front runner of how future audio books of this nature will evolve. Full marks here.

I enjoyed the high pace and reporting style which the book follows, which aligns to previous MG book formula.

Thought provoking.

Negatives:
The subject and the stories while interesting did not make a convincing argument for me. In comparison to how compelling the subjects, theories and arguments in the stories of Blink, David and Goliath and Tipping Point were, this is not in the same league.

I found the argument tenuous at best. I think the stories were compelling because of their emotive and moral shock value, but the arguments put forward as to why these happened were not convincing ... they almost had a 'conspiracy theory' quality to them. I was hoping for more sources, better examples, less repetition on for example 'default to truth theory' and a clearer and more compelling link and argument. It was however, thought provoking which is I would imagine always an author's objective.

I still remain a fan, and continue to look forward to all of Malcolm Gladwell's content - one to mention, is that I am well into season 4 of Revisionist History and love the subject matter and format of these episodes.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 17-09-19

Disappointing

The book delivers none of Gladwell's usual magic of describing a handful of unexamined historical events, and rendering their connection visible in a way that brilliantly supports his thesis. Instead, he recites a string of anecdotes, only to give the most obvious of pronouncements with a self-congratulary smirk. We often get people wrong. We assume people tell the trust most of the time.

It is politically problematic to the point of needing a trigger warning. Brock Turner is said to have raped an unconscious girl due to inebriation. The catalyst for Sandra Bland's death was not police brutality, but a miscommunication.

I enjoyed a few of his other books far too much to be able to finish this one.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Ronin
  • 29-11-19

"dangerous bullshit"

One online reviewer wrote that whilst Gladwell's premise is compelling, his rambling and digressing zig-zagging between cases contains a lot of "dangerous bullshit". I would agree.

The opening passages about how Cuban spies rode roughshod with the CIA are entertaining, the message that not everyone functions according to the same parameters is useful, and the observation that our brain is a bit lazy and defaults to the easiest option follows. The latter two points have been made more thoroughly, comprehensively, and knowledgeably by Daniel Kahneman in 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' and Lisa Feldman Barret in 'How Emotions Are Made' - both excellent listens on Audible.

Gladwell then goes on to say that to tackle sexual abuse on campuses, the excessive consumption of alcohol should be problematised, because it could lead to misreadings in highly sexualised environments such as frat parties. He off-handedly notes that respect for women could form part of that conversation, but that alcohol importantly inhibits our ability to read strangers. It is almost akin to opening a category of 'accidental sexual assault' because of intoxication. It is not like an orange juice could be spiked by someone who is sober and intentional...

He also concludes that Sandra Bland's arrest was in part due to her behaviour being 'mismatched' or 'intransparent' - an innocent person's annoyance misinterpreted to be a sign of guilt by a cop trained to do his job and be suspicious. He mentions briefly that the case formed part of what gave rise to Balck Lives Matter, but eschews institutional racism entirely.

In short, this is a book of a charlatan. He somewhat copies what serious scientists like Kahneman and Feldman Barrett have stated, and supports it with a meandering number of ill-fitting anecdotes that only work by selectively choosing perspectives or suspending better judgement, not to speak of any scientific rigour. And en passant, they undermine attempts to engage with institutional or engrained sexism, racism, and abuses of power. Dangerous bullshit.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-09-19

Book version of Ira Glass's This American

Loved the way Mr. Gladwell brought relevant facts and stories pertaining to the Sandra Bland tragedy. He builds and pulls from Friends, Amanda Knox, and other bits to remind us of the danger of societal stereotypes and acceptance of simple explanations without digging deeper to understand people not like us. This is my favorite of all his books I have read to date.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Leida Schuman
  • 04-05-22

Background music a total distraction

The content was mostly enjoyable and interesting, but I found the poor sound quality of some of the interviews unnecessary. The repetitive background music (almost like the bell of a lift), totally ruined the narration for me.
There was an assumption in some of the cases that the listener had followed the story and was familiar with the specific case.

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  • Isaac Ndung'u
  • 03-04-22

A true eye-opener, mind-blowing audio experience

Loved how well ideas are explored and expounded on.

How everything is all tied together in the end greatly enhances the intended impact/message of the book.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-01-22

An exceptional Read...

I can highly recommend this book. couldn't put it down. Loved the style it was written in with the different voices, stories...and the subject matter is not only contemporary but provides the reader with a lot of food for thought. Excellent book, thank you.

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  • Jacinta
  • 06-12-21

Incredible..

Thought-provoking and at times challenging, this is such an incredible book. I’ll be listening to it again..

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  • Essra
  • 30-10-21

Another psychological approach to understanding (or lack there of) others

If you have read any of Malcolm’s books before, then you know by now that you shouldn’t be expecting a quick fix to one of the world biggest challenges; Communication.
This book will not provide you with strategies on how to talk to people you meet for the first time, nor is it a guide that you can pull out of your pocket before your next interview. It’s simply another eye-opening journey in which you might understand how and why you miss-judged what now seems to be a crystal clear fact!
Live your life, meet new people, be careful, but not too careful. Try not to judge people for failing to notice red flags, because, to your amazement, life wouldn’t have continued otherwise.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-07-21

Disappointed

This is not to the normal high quality writing from the author from earlier books.