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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 (2,182 ratings)

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Publisher's 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)

What listeners say about Talking to Strangers

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A book with no ending...

Interesting enough stories, drawing together similar issues in differing situations... but almost 9 hours of audio book later, and you are left wondering what the point of it all was? I got to the end, hoping there was one more chapter of greater things to take away, but there was not.

'People are bad at judging others by how they outwardly display emotion. Please be careful when you interact with others as things are not always as you assume' seems the be the moral of the story, with a further 8 hours of book to prove this point. I just wish that there was more to take away than that simple statement.

27 people found this helpful

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Please label the chapters

Considering the amount of work poured into this masterpiece, it’s quite disappointing to see that the chapters were not labelled at all.

26 people found this helpful

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oh dear

regardless of intent ends up as an apologist for really shitty exploitive predatory and sexist and racist behaviour and attitudes. default to truth ... the truth of the powerful....doesn't advance insight or thinking..just further confuses these important issues. too glib.

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A good writer, but thin arguments

Gladwell usually boils things down really well but I think he's oversimplified some complex issues in his quest to make it all easy. I think he's straying into rape apologist territory at times; and was it really just misunderstanding that led an intensely corrupt and incompetent police investigation into Amanda Knox? Too easy I think.

11 people found this helpful

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Lacks focus

I love Malcolm Gladwell – especially his revisionist history podcasts. However I wonder why he didn’t make this book’s chapters into separate podcasts because as a one book volume - this lacks focus and in the end, a general supposition of opinion. His book the tipping point for example allowed us to understand the very premise however talking to strangers doesn’t really inform us of anything that we don’t really know in fact this book simply contains chapters of various misaligned and maligned people and incidents that he, I think wrongly, puts down to some sort of “strangers” connection. Call me a cynic but I think Malcolm just wanted to make some money here and he should have done it as a series of podcasts if at all. This book makes very little headway into culture and society

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lose the background music!

Great content but the music and sound effects playing in the background behind the narrative (especially the electronic bells) was really really annoying and distracting!

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Best audio book I have listened to

Superb production & immensely thought provoking. The level of research and analysis presented is magnificent.

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What a production

Thanks for sharing your insights.
I throughly enjoyed the listen and I highly recommend everyone do the same.

5 people found this helpful

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Always glad for more Gladwell, but...

Gladwell never fails to entertain, and this audiobook stands out in incorporating original and re-enacted source material, but the thesis falls a little flat. No regrets, but no revelations either. Time to shake up the method?

8 people found this helpful

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Interesting but unfulfilling

This was the first book of Malcolm Gladwell's I've listened to/read and it would have put me off delving any further into his work had I not heard high praise for him and now having read reviews stating this was not his best work (after sitting through the whole eight and a half hours). Like many reviewers, I had difficulty getting myself to resume the book, particularly in chapters discussing Amanda Knox and the Standford 2015 case. He drew conclusions which attempted to simplify situations and ignore bigotry in order to support his theory around talking to strangers, which, while it may have played a part, is erasing the reality that racism and misogyny are deeply ingrained in our culture and likely contributed heavily to the way these events played out.
I enjoyed hearing his theories, but the examples he used to support them seemed to be round pegs being forced into square holes. The data that he relied on often struck me as feeling cherry-picked, and I would have preferred to hear about situations I could relate to my daily life. I didn't feel this book provided me with ways to rectify how I interact with strangers, I felt like it pointed out incorrect assumptions and poor interactions I could make, and then told me far-out and often well-known stories about where they may apply, while offering no solution.
Somehow though I was still hooked and did enjoy it while I was listening to it, but thinking further about what I was hearing I became less enraptured. The experience of listening to this book was enjoyable and I felt that it was well done. I enjoyed that Malcolm Gladwell narrated it, the 'theme' with the use of the song "Hell You Talmbout", and the insertion of interviews he had recorded.
I have already purchased Blink by Malcolm Gladwell so I will give him another chance if I don't enjoy that I will have to seriously do more research on his books before committing myself to spending more time and money listening to him.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Nick
  • 03-10-2019

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 17-09-2019

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.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Ronin
  • 29-11-2019

"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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-09-2019

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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  • Marisa Bester
  • 03-08-2020

I hate it it is so stupid👎👎👎👎👎👎

It is so stupid I wil delete it I hate it 👎don’t buy it it is so stupid

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  • Des
  • 06-07-2020

Illuminating

The effects of alcohol was shockingly alarming and awakening! Great listen/read. Educational and informative.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 29-06-2020

Very interesting and Eye-Opening accounts of understanding real behavior. Worth the read.

There are a lot of examples which makes the listener wonder is it ever going to get to the point, but these examples are necessary to get a full understanding of what the author is trying to explain. I think this book is better as an audible book for that reason. It’s by no means a story so one can’t rate it as such. It is however written and explained by means of short stories(examples) of real people in real situations and stories about people and their behavior makes anyone who is interested in society and their behaviors an interesting read.

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  • David
  • 28-06-2020

Enhanced audio - the way of future eBooks!

I loved the re-enactments, the music, the audio recordings, recorded interviews - the podcast feel!

Please do more as I believe it’s far more entertaining and interesting. For sure, others will follow Malcolm’s example and we’ll all be better for it.

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  • Walé
  • 15-06-2020

loved the cadence. easy read<br />

Narrator was perfect. The use of interviews and recordings of people involved/mentioned in the book gave a really good variety. In my opinion it made the book really easy to read.

Very interesting subject matter, as usual by M Gladwell.

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  • William Watt
  • 11-06-2020

Glorified podcast, needlessly shocking

Huge fan of Gladwell but this misses the mark. It has some good moments, but spends way too long detailing the horrors of some of the storylines. Whilst worthy of mention and reflection, these moments do not add to our understanding of our interactions with strangers. In addition, the audio quality in some of the interviews is very poor, and acted voices don’t add a lot.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 17-01-2020

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.

29 people found this helpful

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  • Philip O Mahoney
  • 11-10-2019

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).

23 people found this helpful

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  • Olaf H
  • 29-09-2019

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Jawad
  • 24-11-2019

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.

21 people found this helpful

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  • steve farmer
  • 11-09-2019

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 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

55 people found this helpful

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  • Olga Iljuscenko
  • 11-12-2019

absolutely depressing

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

9 people found this helpful

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  • Serban Dragne
  • 19-11-2019

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

19 people found this helpful

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  • Caryl
  • 13-11-2019

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!

4 people found this helpful

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  • Arvinder Dhesi
  • 09-10-2019

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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  • papapownall
  • 08-10-2019

Thought provoking stories about strangers

I have read a couple of Malcolm Gladwell's previous books and found them to be both entertaining and informative. Talking To Strangers is equally as good. We all think we are able to suss out strangers but what if they are lying to us? It seems we have an in built tendency to revert to truth i.e. believe them. Gladwell quotes some intriguing experiments including that of a computer programme that outperforms judges at predicting re-conviction rates based on raw data only, and Michael Levine's famous studies on observing and predicting cheats in a controlled experiment. These both demonstrate that humans are very poor indeed in assessing the intentions and trustworthiness of those they do not know and are too likely to rely on instinct regarding, for example, body language or stereotypes to make their assessments.
There are several high profile events that are considered through this book including the unfortunate case of Amanda Knox, the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Bernie Madoff fraud, Chamberlain's meetings with Hitler and even the US TV show Friends. The themes that emerge are consistent and that is that people are inherently willing to trust others and anticipate behaviour patterns and are surprised when the counterparty does not conform.
Like other works by Gladwell, this is thought provoking and intriguing and anyone reading (or listening) to this, will be quoting the stories for days. The Audible version of this book is excellent as it is read by Gladwell and has archive footages of some of the real events that are used for the base material of this book.

9 people found this helpful