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Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know…

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't…

by Malcolm Gladwell

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255969,547 (3.84)6
In this thoughtful treatise spurred by the 2015 death of African-American academic Sandra Bland in jail after a traffic stop, New Yorker writer Gladwell (The Tipping Point) aims to figure out the strategies people use to assess strangers-to "analyze, critique them, figure out where they came from, figure out how to fix them," in other words: to understand how to balance trust and safety. He uses a variety of examples from history and recent headlines to illustrate that people size up the motivations, emotions, and trustworthiness of those they don't know both wrongly and with misplaced confidence.… (more)



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This book was.....not AT ALL about what I expected it to be about, but being a Malcolm Gladwell joint it was still quite fascinating.

Somewhat horrifying into about how inept the CIA is here in the US...along with some interesting analysis about some of the major headline grabbing assault cases of the past decade.

If you like Gladwell, you'll like this. ( )
  NeedMoreShelves | Oct 12, 2019 |
Malcolm Gladwell is the kind of author who causes many to look forward to the next book. Each of his earlier books has combined diverse illustrations to develop a central conclusion. This book was a disappointment. What appeared to be the theme had to endure several marginally related stories that distracted from the primary topic. Additionally, it is in these nearly irrelevant side stories that we encounter crude language and unnecessary details of unspeakable acts. Hopefully, the next book we are looking forward to will return to the higher level of class we expect. ( )
  Brown | Oct 2, 2019 |
Another outstanding book by Malcolm Gladwell. ( )
  GShuk | Sep 29, 2019 |
Malcolm Gladwell’s latest is as much an engrossing page-turner as any. It goes off on many tangents but all are related to the theme of how we “get things wrong,” particularly when judging and trying to interpret strangers. His goal is to try to examine in detail what happened in one particular case of a traffic stop come to a tragic end. Sandra Bland was pulled over for failing to signal; she was rude to the cop; things escalated, and she was jailed. She killed herself in her jail cell.

Gladwell brackets the book with the story of Sandra Bland. Ultimately, he comes to the explanation that the police department in question was applying an aggressive kind of “stop and frisk” as applied to cars that had no place in a low-crime area such as the rural Texas road where Bland was pulled over. Police departments across the country have misinterpreted an approach to preventive crime fighting that was proven effective in extremely targeted high-crime areas, and are applying it globally.

So, the results of a study are misinterpreted. This puts two strangers in a confrontational situation they should not be in. And they get it tragically wrong.

Thus, a book about the bigger picture of “Talking to Strangers”. There is a chapter about the Penn State child abuse case; and one about college drinking, blacking out, and date rape; and one about the murder case that happened in Italy involving American students. I particularly liked one about how the suicide rate in England plummeted as the nation switched from what they called “town gas,” which will kill you if you stick your head in the oven, to a new formula of natural gas which was not lethal. Turns out (“turns out” – there’s a cliché that that phrase is what all Gladwell books boil down to)… people don’t so much want to kill themselves in general, as to kill themselves in a particular way. Take away that method and… they very well might not. People’s desires are situational. Thus, efforts to put life-saving nets off the Golden Gate Bridge; and, of course, handgun control. Impediments like these, which take away or effectively hinder the possibility of ending one’s life in a particular way, can save lives.

So, um, where were we – that’s right, “Talking to Strangers”! It’s really hard in retrospect for me to remember how all these things tied into that overarching theme. It’s a bit of a stretch, but they do all seem to contribute to the narrative of “things going wrong” in the Sandra Bland case. I didn’t mind the stretch. I love Gladwell’s books and I can’t resist being happily carried along into any tangent he cares to take me to. ( )
2 vote Tytania | Sep 27, 2019 |
Author Gladwell uses case histories and more than a little pop psychology to explain why we don’t always clue in on strangers. I can’t say I agreed with what he had to say – especially when it came to Jerry Sandusky and Larry Nasser – but seeing these high profile cases from a different perspective brought out aspects I’d never considered. Also, I thought some of his explanations were a little too pat and avoided answering some bigger questions. For example, the Sandra Bland arrest played a significant role in the book but there was nothing in it about how she ended up in jail for three days. I can’t buy that it was all because of miscommunication – virtually every traffic stop involves two strangers, after all – and dismiss the idea that race had anything to do with it. I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading this book – I genuinely enjoyed it – but I don’t think I gained any valuable insights from it either. ( )
  wandaly | Sep 24, 2019 |
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