Narrator: the author
Published by Hachette Audio on September 10, 2019
Length: 8 hrs 42 mins
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How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn't true?
While tackling these questions, Malcolm Gladwell was not solely writing a book for the page. He was also producing for the ear. In the audiobook version of Talking to Strangers, you’ll hear the voices of people he interviewed—scientists, criminologists, military psychologists. Court transcripts are brought to life with re-enactments. You actually hear the contentious arrest of Sandra Bland by the side of the road in Texas. As Gladwell revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath, you hear directly from many of the players in these real-life tragedies. There’s even a theme song—Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout”.
Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don't know. And because we don't know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.
No one shows us who we are like Malcolm Gladwell. Here he sets out to understand why we act the way we do, and how we all might know a little more about those we don't.
The above track is the theme song for the book. The production of the Talking to Strangers audiobook is well-done. We hear the actual voices of people he interviews, it includes reenactments of court scenes and the audio from actual videos of events. I am glad I chose the audio instead of print version.
Gladwell present some really interesting ideas. Strangers are more complicated and harder to truly understand than we imagine. Liars can seem honest, spies can seem loyal, nervous people can seem guilty. People’s facial expressions are not a reliable guide to what they are thinking. And a lot of it is really interesting. We tend to default to truth, believing that people are being honest unless there are a lot of red flags that lead us to believe they’re not. I know I do, and I’m okay with that. I think Gladwell has a point when he says that’s what makes society work. We can’t all always suspect everyone is lying to us. Can you imagine going through life like that? But Gladwell ignores that we tend to believe what fits into our preconceived biases, he ignores the impact of race on interactions.
And then Gladwell blames police brutality, rape and pedophiles not being stopped on MISUNDERSTANDINGS. He is more sensitive than that and leads you to his point well, but still he simplifies situations too much and allows leniency to people who should have done better. He tells his stories and gives his examples in an engaging way and a lot of what he says makes sense, but then he takes a jump that goes just too far.
If nothing else though, the book is a good reminder that we can’t tell “who people are” by looking them in the eye, but they also can’t tell about us.