Talking to Strangers
Talking to Strangers What We Should Know About the People We Don't Know By Gladwell, Malcolm eBook - 2019

Fascinating look at human behavior that reads more like individual essays, than one cohesive story.

Reviewed in the United States on July 21, 2020

There is no doubt in my mind that Malcom Gladwell can make usually droll research findings , facts and statistics absolutely fascinating. He has proved it time and time in books like BLINK and THE TIPPING POINT, among others. He has a gift for using .real human interest stories as analogies to explain scientific findings to laymen. This book reminded me how much I want my go back over his body of work, reading anything I have missed.

That said, TALKING TO STRANGERS isn't one of his better books. It was absolutely interesting and timely (more so than he could have forseen. It touches on Black Lives Matter and what's wrong with Policing In America, yet its publication predates the horror of the callous murder of George Floyd, possibly by mere months. The problem, with the book, for me, lies in the attempt to corral the various stories and social research entries under a single broad heading, that is the title of the book. It seemed like a stretch to me without a satisfactory conclusion, or even much insight into how to correct the rampant miscommunication, missed opportunities for understanding, and dead wrong assumptions that happen, when strangers meet face to face, all too often leading to tragic consequences.

The books message is mixed, concluding that giving stranger the benefit of the doubt is better for, and necessary, to have a functioning society. This is almost in direct opposition to the first part of the book which determines that we are terrible at spotting liars, even when the stakes are high and we are given reasons to suspect them. "We default to the truth" and brush away our doubts. This kind of thinking allowed double agents to act against US interests, sometimes for years, costing the lives of many CIA spies.

It is a fascinating book but it reads more like a series of essays on social behavior that are not necessarily related, but still, well worth reading.

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