Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell [6/10]

Iconoclast Malcolm Gladwell is one of those writers I’ll always read or listen to (his podcasts are exceptional) because his oblique nerdy insights into the ordinary could come from no one else. “Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know” addresses what happens when we talk to or examine strangers, defined as those we don’t know inside out. Gladwell’s curiosity has him exploring spies who fool everybody, innocents accused of crimes because of their demeanour, con artists even smart people trust, confrontations that spiral out of control, and so on and so on. Drawing on a recent more academic book by an expert on the subject of drawing others, he comes up with underlying reasons why our confidence in our ability to “read” others is misplaced. Reading Gladwell means going on a journey of wonderment, and for the first three quarters of “Talking to Strangers,” I was fully absorbed, but the final quarter petered out for one simple reason: his conclusions intrigue but don’t thunder. A quick brain-tease of a book that remains modest in intent, something we see rarely these days.

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