‘Talking to Strangers’ provides great insight

NY Times Bestseller breaks down social interaction

Fair use from Little, Brown and Company.

Fair use from Little, Brown and Company.

Sam Listiak

When I first read the dust cover of this non-fiction book by Malcolm Gladwell, the idea of breaking down historical events into lessons about social interaction immediately caught my eye.

‘Talking to Strangers” is a controversial book using scandals from the news to describe social exchanges. The book looks at many interactions at different points in history, some between world leaders, others involving regular civilians, and shows what mistakes were made. Some of these events are forever engraved in history, such as Hernán Cortés’ takeover of Montezuma and the Aztecs, whereas others are lesser known interactions such as ones between civilians and police officers.

“Talking to Strangers” does a great job showing the social aspects of the interactions as well as documenting the original interactions themselves. The book has a lot to learn from, mostly in the way of behavior and social actions rather than just facts like the ones in other history books. It is separated into different stories like chapters and keeps the reader entertained throughout.

Another thing this book does a great job of is connecting the very different stories to make a cohesive statement. Though all of the stories are from completely different time periods, Gladwell does a great job connecting the stories and their lessons to one another. This is to show how the same social actions have been used for hundreds of years.

However, there are a few dark spots. One problem this book touches on a lot are controversial and sensitive topics. The first story, briefly mentioned in the introduction, details a scene where a black woman is pulled over for failing to signal a lane change. After some brief back-and-forth over the officer wanting her to step out of her car, she is arrested, jailed and commits suicide in her cell three days later. These stories can make some readers uncomfortable or upset.

Overall, this book gives great insight on the behavior and actions of everyday people. It may sound boring, but the book is a great read that will keep the reader turning the pages throughout.

“Talking to Strangers”: ★★★★★