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Talking to Strangers

What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know
Narrated by: Malcolm Gladwell
Length: 8 hrs and 42 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (764 ratings)

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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 story-telling 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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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 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Phillip
  • Johannesburg South Africa
  • 20-09-19

Outstanding, brilliant insight !!!

Written and read by the amazing Malcolm Gladwell, a real page turner, so interesting a must read :)

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Gladwell does it again.

Great story telling for Gladwell, as always. If you like Revisionist History you'll love this book.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Reviewed by a stranger

Well researched, thoughtful, intelligent and interesting perspective on human interactions. Like a crime investigation deconstructing the events and reconstructing them. Then providing a different and more realistic view of what actually happened. Could not stop listening.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Next level audio book

Brilliant, a classic Malcolm Gladwell book combined with an entertaining podcast feel.
I really like the journey he takes you on, off on behavioural tangents, you have to go with it and enjoy the ride. You can feel sad, enlightened, annoyed, disappointed but that's the best bit whatever he writes gets a reaction and hopefully we learn something and optimistically we improve how we act.
Now I understand where some of his podcast materials came from recently ;-)

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Invisible walls of 2019 are broken down

Another masterpiece by Malcolm Gladwell. Felt like I was listening to a documentary, not the boring kind, the kind that has your heart on edge.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant

A brilliant book or should I say production... the enhancement including audio files from court cases etc brought it to life! Malcom Gladwell as always presents a brilliant case!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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excellent 👌

loved listening to this audio especially with adding of different voices and the source recorded interviews. just excellent thank you.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Enhanced Audio Good - Book Bad

The idea of the enhanced audio book is good and the extra production is a step in the right direction but this book is poor. It seems like they wanted to revolutionize the audio book but in their haste forgot that listeners want a book first and foremost. I buy audio books because I want to optimize the listening time I have with quality content; proofed, edited and well thought through.They wanted to take the best elements of a well produced podcast and transfer it to the audio book realm but instead what we got was a mildly entertaining podcast masquerading as an audio book.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding

If you love revisionist history, then you're going to love this! And if not, then you're STILL going to love this! Gladwell weaves teaching and storytelling to provide hidden insights into our current culture. Very well produced and a joy to listen to. Bring on the 'enhanced audiobook'!

5 of 8 people found this review 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.

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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Vellu
  • 09-10-19

Good book, audio could be better

Loved the book and the flow. The narration is clear but most of the reference audio is poor.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-10-19

Very well researched

Everyone should read this book. It addresses an uncomfortable truth or two about human nature and merely identifying these aspects we can avoid issues in the future

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  • Irrational Rob
  • 06-10-19

Masterful. Confronting. Perception altering.

Only wished each track had at least the chapter number and name. But a short description would be excellent for future reference.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-10-19

Gladwell being Gladwell

At the outset, Gladwell bills this as a book about Sandra Bland, a 28 year old African American women, who was found hanged in a jail cell in Waller County, Texas, on July 13, 2015, three days after being arrested following a bizarre traffic stop. Her death was ruled a suicide. But, of course, there was more to it. Is this a book about Sandra Bland? In a way.

Characteristically, Gladwell has an original view, not about what happened to Miss Bland, but about why it happened, and it has nothing to do with racism. But we have to wait until the last chapter for Gladwell to connect the dots. So, really only the very beginning and the very end are about Miss Bland.

It takes Gladwell quite a time to connect the dots, even though there are only three of them. They are: (1) our instinctive assumption that people generally tell the truth (and what happens when we abandon that assumption), (2) our (mistaken) assumption that we can spot truth or lies from a person’s facial expressions and demeanour (the illusion of “transparency”) and (3) our habit of ignoring the context that explains why a stranger does something (we tend to generalise confidently about strangers based on very little information).

The journey Gladwell takes to connect these three dots is a circuitous one, taking us from Cuban double agents in the CIA, to Neville Chamberlain’s encounters with Adolf Hitler, to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, to the high profile pedophilia convictions of Jerry Sanduski and Larry Nassar, to the sensational murder trial of Amanda Knox, to a college date rape, to CIA renditions of an Al Qaeda kingpin, to an episode of Friends (The One Where a Girl Hits Joey), to policing in Kansas City, to Sylvia Plath’s suicide - and that’s only some of it.

This is Gladwell, the intellectual magpie, in full collector mode. It’s fascinating, in that you wonder at first where he’s going with all this, and you can’t help but enjoy all the side roads he takes off the main highway. After the chapter on “coupling” (the not so obvious connection between what people do and where, how and why they do it), you get where he’s going. And, maybe you get a little impatient for him to get there.

This is, perhaps, Gladwell’s hardest hitting book – his most passionate look at flawed ideas and systems, and the tragic harm they do. Yet his theme is almost obscured, because this is also his most disjointed work and, perhaps, his most reductive.

Gladwell likes to take an eclectic bunch of stories and throw them into his intellectual blender to produce an unusually flavored, but tasty, smoothie. He enjoys turning stories and ideas on their heads. But, this time, he threw in a few too many ingredients and broke the blades of the blender. The results is a slightly lumpy, watery and discolored shake, but nicely flavored nonetheless.

As usual, Gladwell makes an art form out of digression, while preserving just enough treads to tie his thesis together – or rather his synthesis of other people’s theses. And, even though the result is disappointing, he does it all in a way that infects you with his holy anger and moves you with his genuine love of people and ideas.

His explanation of the explosion of motorist “stop and search” from its origin in a high-crime test zone in Kansas City to its use by police all over the US as a radical reversal of Timothy Levine’s “Truth-Default” theory is overplayed. As he argued in one of his Revisionist History podcasts, “stop and search” can sometimes be nothing more than a cynical policy to boost city revenues – the more motorists you stop for trifling violations, the more revenue you collect. And, he steers way too clear of the uncomfortable fact that “driving while black” accounts for the disproportionate number of stops of African American motorists. And, it may well have been as much of a factor in Sandra Bland’s arrest as her supposedly suspicious demeanor.

He overplays other things too, but that’s part of his thing – left-field generalizations woven from psychological and sociological theories, laced with parallax anecdotes. It’s the literary equivalent of a lobster-burger – fast food for gourmets – but served with lots of salty fries and a coke.

Gladwell’s drawn-out whodunnit approach doesn’t work. The absurdly trite conclusion that we should be cautious and humble when talking to strangers and that the officer who arrested Sandra Bland was not, takes most of the air out of the book, though not all of it. After all the scatter-shot, Gladwell’s forensic description of Miss Bland’s encounter with the State Trooper penetrates like a laser. Has anyone written better obituary for Miss Bland? Probably not. Could Gladwell have written a better one? Most certainly.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kenesha L.
  • 02-10-19

Exceptionally insightful

We do view the world through our own narrow perspective. This book with its references to real documented events and interactions forced me to think of how I too can be misunderstood and my actions misinterpreted.

My takeaway: Keep questioning, Seek clarification.

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  • John M
  • 30-09-19

Gladwell bring his own unique lens to bear

I've read many of Malcolm Gladwell's books and love that he gets you thinking. Somehow he sees the world in a different light and can explain himself so we can all see that perspective also. It's really helpful. Talking to strangers is another such book from a master story teller. As he explains we are all pre-conditioned to misunderstand situations and people that vary from our normal. It's good to be aware of that reality and to proceed with a bit more caution and compassion.

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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.

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  • Nitsan
  • 30-09-19

A Good Revisionist History season packed as a book

Interesting ideas, great delivery, par for the Gladwell course
This was my first audible book :-)