Review of Talking to Strangers

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  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell’s new work on interactions among strangers includes several enthralling case histories, notably his retelling of the Amanda Knox murder case. Drawing on a range of other examples, including CIA interrogations and interactions with sex offenders, Gladwell illustrates astonishingly complex aspects of stranger-to-stranger dynamics. His heart-wrenching description of Sandra Bland’s encounter with a Texas police officer in 2015 delivers his message like a punch to the gut. Gladwell’s warning comes through loud and clear: Take nothing for granted when talking with strangers.

About the Author

Acclaimed Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell’s previous books include The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, David and Goliath, and What the Dog Saw – all New York Times bestsellers. He hosts the podcast Revisionist History.


Most people, including experts, don’t read strangers well.

Gladwell describes how seriously the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) takes deception and its detection. Some agents study other CIA employees’ behavior to uncover traitors. Yet, he asserts in line with his main theme, the CIA fails time and again to detect people who are spying against it. During the Cold War, for example, the author reports that virtually every CIA agent in Cuba and in the Soviet Bloc was a double agent spying for the enemy.

Gladwell offers the example of judges who decide whether to grant or deny bail to those accused of crimes. Judges listen to lawyers, read case files and take the measure of accused people. The judges might as well flip a coin. Artificial intelligence-based algorithms can predict who will commit crimes while out on bail far better than judges.

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