Talking to Strangers

by Malcolm Gladwell

I finished a book. I didn\’t really like it, so am having a hard time thinking what to say. The subtitle: What We Should Know About the People We Don\’t Know. Which seems to be, in a nutshell: you\’ll never be able to judge strangers accurately. You will misread their facial expressions, truthfulness and intentions more than half the time. This book has lots of examples from famous court cases, encounters with police gone badly wrong, incidents of sexual assault and pedophilia, meetings between enemy leaders of countries, high ranking FBI agents who were duped by spies for years and so on. All about how people who are trained to pick out the lies and find the wrongdoers are so very often wrong. There\’s a part about studies that show how deprivation and torture makes prisoners very bad about providing information- it affects the brain, the memory- so the info they do give is probably inaccurate. So why do people keep getting tortured in order to extract information? There\’s another section all about suicides- in particular with details on Sylvia Plath- which I found educational to read in one sense, and very upsetting in another. The takeaway seems to be: as a human race we\’re bad at judging people we don\’t know. We guess wrong. So stop trying? It doesn\’t really give any suggestions on that. Only that we shouldn\’t be too harsh on people who were taken in by strangers or misled, because it\’s so very easy to fall prey. I found the implications depressing honestly. There\’s a lot more, but I don\’t really feel like thumbing through the book to remind myself of them right now. Check out Goodreads, or some of the links below. Lots of different opinions on this one.

Borrowed from my sister.

Rating: 2/5            386 pages, 2019

more opinions:
Book\’d Out
Rhapsody in Books Weblog
anyone else?

7 Responses

  1. That's a shame because from your description I thought the book sounded quite interesting. I have noticed that I'm bad at telling when people are lying though, so to be honest the book's findings do not surprise me.

  2. I have honestly gone way off Malcolm Gladwell. He spins a good yarn, but as soon as you start digging deeper into his citations and thinking more about how he's constructing his arguments, they completely fall apart. So do not worry too much about the things that depressed you! He probably misrepresented them all anyway!

  3. Cath- a lot of other readers have found it a good read, I just had a negative reaction to it. I think it's worth reading, but a lot of the details were upsetting to me.Jenny- I did see from reviews Goodreads that others felt the author's examples and connections between them were poor. I wasn't able to discern that myself, but then I was having a very hard time concentrating on the book. Now I wonder if my difficulty getting through it was due just as much to how problematic the book itself was, as my poor focus and distractibility from the circumstances around me.

  4. Huh, it sounds interesting, but I think I'd get more from reading your review (an overview of the findings) than actually reading the whole book. So thanks!

  5. Thanks, Thistle! Yeah, you could probably glean all you need to from reading the reviews online. It's one I wish I hadn't spent quite so much time trying to finish. But glad I did! Feel more likely now to get back into reading and other activities I used to find fulfilling.

  6. (Oops, \”big\”, not \”bug\” congratulations.)I'm having an easier time reading now, too. Not sure if I found a book I'm really enjoying or if I'm feeling less stressed or what. But it's quite nice!

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