Talking to Strangers

Talking to Strangers

What We Should Know About the People We Don't Know

Book - 2019 | First edition
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Malcolm Gladwell, host of the podcast 'Revisionist History' and author of 'The Tipping Point', 'Outliers', and 'What the Dog Saw', offers a powerful examination of our interactions with strangers - and why they often go wrong. Gladwell is originally from Toronto, ON.
Publisher: New York :, Little, Brown and Company,, 2019
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780316478526
Branch Call Number: 302 GLA


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Manuel Gonsalves
Aug 28, 2020

This was hand deliver to the library at the same time I picked up The book" What's funny about me".

Jul 26, 2020

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.

Jul 22, 2020

Malcolm uses many case studies and also cites significant cases such as Brock Turner and Sandra Bland. The book provokes thoughts and asks its readers to think deeper, to try and understand why we think the way we do, and assume things about strangers with one interaction. How do we decide if someone is lying to us? Is the truth subjective or is it perspective? Can we determine if a person is lying by facial expressions or do we need more? While there are no real answers or conclusions stated In the book, it leaves a realm for open-ended interpretations. The readers can come to their own conclusion ironically relating to the fact that we take our stand about strangers with just a conversation. The title correctly justifies the ideas expressed in the story, making it a compelling read!

May 12, 2020

In addition to the insightful perceptions of Malcolm Gladwell regarding the tools and strategies we use to evaluate the strangers we meet this book has interesting ties to Kansas City. He reviews multiple case studies about Kansas City’s efforts to reduce crime. Starting in the 1970’s Kansas City tried to improve the way police deployed their forces to reduce crime by employing a criminologist. It was the first of several attempts that ultimately became known as the “Kansas City Model”. Gladwell takes a critical look at how our attempts to learn why people act as they do and why anticipating their behavior is so fraught with problems.

Gladwell’s well researched investigations reviews how Cuba was able to plant spies within our intelligence agencies, why Neville Chamberlain placed his trust in Hitler and how Bernard Madoff was able to fraudulently gain the trust of many seemingly sophisticated investors. Gladwell illustrates why talking with strangers is more complex than we ever knew and our how assumptions can lead us down paths that can have devastating consequences.

Mar 20, 2020

Malcolm Gladwell has written a book about various scenarios where understanding strangers has come to the fore. Each of these topics is interesting and we learn what we should know about the people we don't know. As Lionel Beehner says Gladwell could probably make a pencil sharpener interesting, if he were given an assignment to write about it. He is a wonderful reporter and writes well about the most mundane topics.

Mar 08, 2020

Excellent book with several key points well supported by research and by actual events. Unique way of viewing our assumptions and how they can lead us to disastrous conclusions. Very readable. It has expanded and informed my previous way of looking at people and events in the world. Highly recommend it.

Mar 08, 2020

Very interesting read! This was my first Gladwell book, and I am sure it won't be my last. This book takes a deep dive into the intricacies of human psychology, particularly around deception. Although this is the main focus, the book also touches on other seemingly unrelated topics which are nonetheless eventually integrated with the main theme of the book. Gladwell is quite talented! As you'll find, and as I have alluded to, he has a profound capacity to deeply explore a subject while maintaining a wide lens though which to do so. The book elucidates many very interesting stories, from the interactions of Cortes and Montezuma to the finds of an anthropologist in Bolivia. This book is a great read for just about anyone, but particularly for those who like variation in their reads. Enjoy!

VaughanPLTiziana Feb 24, 2020

A good read with some interesting insights. Malcolm Gladwell investigates what can go wrong when we interact with people we don't know. He uses many real scenarios from throughout history. I enjoyed the psychology aspect of this book and the many studies he discusses.

Feb 20, 2020

Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite authors!

JCLHollyB Feb 20, 2020

In this approachable, Science-based read author Malcolm Gladwell questions the capacity people have to actually assess another person's character, competency, emotions, and even guilt of a crime. He cites recent high attention cases, including both the Sandra Bland and Brock Turner cases, working to inspire the reader to question not only their immediate perceptions, but, what our perceptions are based on, and why we have them.

It was a heady, captivating read that most literally sent me into a bigger, better paradigm of thinking. I recommend this book to anyone excited to question reality as they see it. A must read!

View All Comments


Add a Quote
VaughanPLTiziana Feb 24, 2020

"We think we can easily see into the hearts of others based on the flimsiest of clues. We jump at the chance to judge strangers. We would never do that to ourselves, of course. We are nuanced and complex and enigmatic. But the stranger is easy. If I can convince you of one thing in this book, let it be this: Strangers are not easy."

"We have a default to truth: our operating assumption is that the people we are dealing with are honest."

"Default to truth becomes an issue when we are forced to choose between two alternatives, one of which is likely and the other of which is impossible to imagine."

"You believe someone not because you have no doubts about them. Belief is not the absence of doubt. You believe someone because you don’t have enough doubts about them."

"When we confront a stranger, we have to substitute an idea—a stereotype—for direct experience. And that stereotype is wrong all too often."

Feb 08, 2020

The first set of mistakes we make with strangers - the default to truth and the illusion of transparency - has to do with our inability to make sense of the stranger as an individual. But on top of those errors we add another, which pushes our problem with strangers into crisis. We do not understand the importance of the context in which the stranger is operating.

Feb 08, 2020

Sometimes the best conversations between strangers allow the stranger to remain a stranger. (p. XII)

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability
Feb 03, 2020

Docenos thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at BPL

To Top