Tuesday 20 August 2019

Book ~ "Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know" (2019) Malcolm Gladwell

From Goodreads ~ In July 2015, a young black woman named Sandra Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation in rural Texas. Minutes later she was arrested and jailed. Three days later, she committed suicide in her cell. What went wrong? "Talking to Strangers" is all about what happens when we encounter people we don't know, why it often goes awry, and what it says about us.

How do we make sense of the unfamiliar? Why are we so bad at judging someone, reading a face, or detecting a lie? Why do we so often fail to 'get' other people?

Through a series of puzzles, encounters and misunderstandings, from little-known stories to infamous legal cases, Gladwell takes us on a journey through the unexpected. You will read about the spy who spent years undetected at the highest levels of the Pentagon, the man who saw through the fraudster Bernie Madoff, the suicide of the poet Sylvia Plath and the false conviction of Amanda Knox. You will discover that strangers are never simple.

No one shows us who we are like Malcolm Gladwell. Here he sets out to understand why we act the way we do, and how we all might know a little more about those we don't. 

This book is about how we misunderstand people's actions and tones and give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the people we're talking to are being honest.

It starts with the story of Sandra Bland.  She was a Black woman who had just moved from Chicago to Houston.  She was stopped by a police office in rural Texas for failing to signal when moving into the right hand lane.  Things escalated and she was arrested and put in jail.  A couple days later she committed suicide in her cell.  What happened?  How did it go from a routine traffic violation to suicide?  Gladwell analyzes the behavior of both and give us his opinion.

Gladwell also analyzes what happened in other true situations including Hitler's convincing behavior with an English prime minister before World War II, a Cuba spy in Czechoslavia who defected to the U.S., Bernie Madoff's investment scam, pedophile Jerry Sandusky, reading the expressions of the actors of Friends, terrorist KSM, if alcohol an excuse for rape, the arrest of Amanda Knox for the murder of Meredith Kercher, the death of Sylvia Plath and more.

It was an interesting read as it gave background information I didn't know but also discussed stories I didn't know about.

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