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.
Talking To Strangers PDF
What could Adolf Hitler, Amanda Knox, Sylvia Plath, and Bernie Madoff possibly have had in common? Well, they are all people who were misunderstood, with bad consequences for themselves or others. Returning from Munich with “Peace in Our Time” Prime Minister Chamberlain was certain that Hitler sincerely desired peace.
Her seemingly casual effect and sexy demeanor made it easy for the Italian justice system to find Knox guilty of murder. And of course, as all readers of The Bell Jar think they know, Plath was a suicidal depressive personality who was bound to kill herself sooner or later. But Gladwell shows that most of our intuitions are wrong.
Face-to-face encounters are usually misleading. We are in fact genetically programmed to believe strangers we meet for the first time, the Hitlers and Madoffs. (My current favorite is Elizabeth Holmes. I know I would have believed her.) And when an Amanda Knox (or I suspect Casey Anthony) fails to respond as we expect an innocent person should, we take that as evidence of guilt.
The account of Plath’s suicide was especially fascinating. I didn’t know that the cooking gas in British households till the 1970s was made from coal and were especially lethal. Since the switch to North Sea gas, you can keep your head in the oven all day, apparently. It’s hard to isolate one theme in this book, except that most of what we believe is wrong.
Aggressive policing only reduce crime when applied to carefully selected neighborhoods. Whether people commit suicide depends on the availability of a preferred means (in America, firearms), not on whether they are the suicidal type. Criminals don’t “act guilty” and innocent people often do.
I found it hard to extract a moral from this book, except always to keep in mind that we not only could be wrong but that most of the time it’s our default setting. Which explains how crooks and con men are so often successful, and innocent people are too often victims of injustice.
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|Book Title||Talking To Strangers|