What happens when people don't know how to talk to strangers?
I can't remember where I heard that I needed to read Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell. It's obviously been a while because as I sifted through my collection looking for a new audiobook, I had completely forgotten what it was about. I thought it was a manual for understanding other people better, being able to talk with people we don't know, kind of an inter-personal how-to book. I was mostly wrong. The one thing I did remember correctly was that it was highly recommended to listen to the audio version. The book was supposedly very good, but the audio version was substantially better because it was almost like listening to a long form podcast. Read by the author, this audio book also included recorded clips from interviews with the subjects he is discussing, a score to deepen the experience, and trial testimony- either the actual audio or the transcript performed by actors.
Talking to Strangers is a book about how many factors go into understanding people we don't know. Told in what appears to be a bit of a stream of consciousness narrative, Gladwell bounces from one example to the next in order to build his way toward his point. This book is decidedly complex and there were times I wasn't sure what Gladwell was trying to say, but then he would pull it all back together, drawing out the critical details in order to explain everything.
The various stories include CIA agents being duped for years by double agents, Ponzi schemes, the interrogation of terrorists, the suicide of Sylvia Plath, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the arrest and death of Sandra Bland. If these topics seem unconnected and incoherent, you will really feel that way as you are listening to the audio book. But hold on, keep listening, pay attention and it will start to make sense. This book is a bit heavy at times and you may find yourself listening to a topic with which you disagree, but I encourage you to be patient and trust that it will begin to make sense. I will admit there were times I needed to take breaks, but I am so glad that I persisted.
I found this book absolutely fascinating and I hope you will, too.