Tuesday, October 8

Gladwell: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Amusing

Gladwell's "Talking to Strangers"is an interesting, albeit sometimes inaccurate, read and lacks a strong ending

by
Ray Blehar
October 9, 2019. 11:30 PM, EDT

Rating 3.0/5

Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, Talking to Strangers -- What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know, was written over a three-year period and to the casual reader appears to be meticulously researched.  An informative read, it takes readers through a long history of misinterpretation and miscommunication among strangers, starting with Cortez and Montezuma and ending with the tragic case of Sandra Bland.   In between, Gladwell touches on the interactions of Chamberlain and Hitler, the Intelligence Community and spies (e.g. Ana Montes and Aldrich Ames), fraudster Bernie Madoff and sex offenders Jerry Sandusky and Larry Nassar and their victims, the Italian Police and Amanda Knox, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- among others.

Many of the stories are fascinating, especially that of the suicide of Sylvia Plath that was enabled by her easy access to carbon monoxide in her kitchen oven.   In this instance, Gladwell uses the story as a pathway to describe "coupling" and that suicidal individuals may not commit suicide had it not been for the convenience of the death instrument -- including, for example,  San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.

While the book does a great job showing that most people's ability to discern truth telling from lying is quite terrible with a complete stranger and only gets worse after they've met with the stranger on several occasions.

Gladwell writes: "it is human nature to default to the truth and the world is better for it."