Book Review: Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell

I’m torn. I highly enjoyed listening to Talking to Strangers. It is well made, following Malcolm Gladwell’s podcasts (including authentic audio clips from quotes and examples introduced in the book,) and it is engaging full of human interest stories. Yet, unfortunately, there is yet, as always, he jumps around one example to another, thinking a+b+c+d is a proved point. Also, often enough, the point made is simple and one-sided, forgetting all the complex elements and critique towards the studies he quotes and proofs he gives. He does armchair sociology, and it shows. This is not a scientific study that proves his argumentation at all. Yet, but this time the yet is for his benefit, I cannot disagree with him that talking to strangers isn’t tricky. That we, I, often misunderstand strangers’ motives because either I don’t understand them, the circumstances, or I’m too wrapped inside my head. I wholeheartedly agree with Malcolm Gladwell with this, but it isn’t as black and white as he makes it out to be. We do seem to understand strangers, and we do judge (favorably or unfavorably) them correctly. Not always, but often enough to make the world go around (the human kind.)

What should I say to you if you asked me should I read this book or not? First of all, listen to it. The audiobook is a show which will take you on the verge of tears when you hear the injustice Sandra Bland’s voice. It will make you shocked by terrorism and torture, alcohol and rape, pedophilia and schools’ responsibilities. It will make you think about how you judge others who are out of the ordinary like Amanda Knox, who almost lost her freedom because of it. It will make you see suicide, alcohol, and violence from a different light. All of this comes alive in the audiobook. And when you want to scream at the end about the traffic stops and their usefulness, and how suddenly Malcolm Gladwell is turning his back on the injustice he started with, wait. Secondly, definitely read this book. While I wanted to point out that this is not the ultimate truth and nothing but the truth, that this is one part of the whole communication problem we face, still Gladwell writes about important aspects that are worth a moment of your time.

Thank you for reading and have a lovely day! Talk to strangers. You are surprised by what you might learn.

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