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Talking to Strangers

What We Should Know About the People We Don't Know
Written by: Malcolm Gladwell
Narrated by: Malcolm Gladwell
Length: 8 hrs and 42 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2,692 ratings)

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A Conversation with Best-selling Author Malcolm Gladwell

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What the critics say

"Malcolm Gladwell is a fabulous narrator of his latest book... His pleasing tone, phrasing palette, and exceptional skill with dramatic pauses all sound natural, yet add sparkling energy to his writing." (AudioFile Magazine)

" The extra effects in this book go a long way: from the use of music and sound effects, to the recreation of conversations with actors, Gladwell was able to bring to life his subject matter in a way that never fails to engage."

Sean M., Audible Listener



Our favourite moments from Talking to Strangers

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Default to Truth
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  • Default to Truth
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About the Creator and Performer

Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian journalist, author, and podcaster. He is the host of the podcasts Revisionist History and Broken Record and co-founder of the audio production company Pushkin Industries. For his sixth audiobook, the #1 New York Times audio best-seller Talking to Strangers, he drew on real-life audio–including archival footage and clips from his own interviews—to incorporate the production techniques of a podcast into the audiobook format. It has been praised by Audible listeners as "a new era in audiobooks…and maybe in relating to others." He has also written and narrated The Tipping Point (2000); Blink (2005); Outliers (2008); and David and Goliath (2013), all of which are New York Times best-sellers. Gladwell’s books and articles often deal with the unexpected implications of research in the social sciences, particularly sociology, psychology, and social psychology. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2011 and has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. He lives in New York.

Photographed by Celeste Sloman

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Another great read by Malcolm Gladwell

I love reading his books, but it's so much better to listen to him read them.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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A relevant and relatable look into psychology

From Hilter to Amanda Knox, the CIA to Cuba, and a lot of other examples, Talking to Strangers takes the psychological theories put forth by others and applies them to some fascinating case studies of histories famed, fortunate and and misfortune. The use of voice recordings and voice reenactment make the message of the book that much more personal while the constant relationship between chapters and the constant building up help us understand how we think the way we do. A great podcast-esque audiobook which is easily digested and highly informative

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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jargon

bought this based on Gladwell's reputation, but this book did not live up to its expectations. I felt like the author was talking but not saying anything. I was expecting a book filled with psychology and human behavior analysis, but all it was was a book filled with random stories thrown together. sure, there was a good point here n there but majority of the book was a disappointment.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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zero insight

This book contained 1 simple overarching idea which was just drawn out through the entire book. It lacked insight or original ideas. Very disappointed. This is the last benefit of the doubt I give to Malcolm Gladwell.

29 of 37 people found this review helpful

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Another genius novel from Malcolm Gladwell

The title really says it all. If you are like me a big fan of his other books and enjoy his podcasts, you will certainly enjoy his new book! Interestingly enough, he adapted this audiobook to include recordings of his conversations with the subject of each chapter, much resembling the structure of his podcast Revisionist History. A truly amazing look into the interactions and misunderstandings we have of strangers. He looks deeply into the historical and societal impacts of our inability to read each others minds.

It might be my new favourite book...

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Another interesting Gladwell book.

a view into how we interact, why we make certain decisions and situations when people act outside the norm. Highly recommend! Gladwell never disappoints.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Best Audibook Ever

I was a big fan of Gladwell’s “Revisionist History,” so when he described this audiobook as a new kind for the medium, I knew it wouldn’t be disappointing. The extra effects in this book go a long way: from the use of music and sound effects, to the recreation of conversations with actors, Gladwell was able to bring to life his subject matter in a way that never failed to engage. I will certainly listen to this book again. Fascinating from beginning to end.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Cognitive dissonance at the highest level

I was excited for this book based on my preconceived notion of what it would entail. However, talking to strangers is the title and motivation given to justify writing a book about this authors feelings towards one unfortunate event. It appears as if he starts with the premise of 'I dislike this one event and it was due to x, y, z bad reason, and I'm going to work backwards to justify writing a book about it'. For someone who should be intelligent, the level of cognitive dissonance at play is incredible. His ability to use sound reasoning to reach a certain conclusion, and then throw in entirely unsubstantiated content to achieve his desired point is obvious and discrediting. While capable of logic, when presented with information the author admits he feels strongly about, he appears unable to use his logic but defaults to an emotion response, even if it goes directly against the line of logic he has recently demonstrated. While there were some interesting and informative parts. The main premises appear to be lacking in any form of justification and the author expects you to just go along with it so he can tell you why he is right, and why you should also feel that way. I felt it was lacking in terms of substantiating critical claims, which if substantiated would have been impressive, but it appears to lack that substantiation because the author simply could not substantiate the claim, but wanted to use it as a premise for his idea of what happened, so uses a number of fallacies to achieve his end goal hoping no one catches on. If only the author actually tried to view his work from an objective position, or 'outside the issue' looking in, instead of being consumed by it and from within it, he may have been able to write a decent book. In the meantime, I was disappointed with 90% of the book. I finished it in the hope that the end justified the means, but the author failed to do that also. I feel as if someone has tried to manipulate me through intellectual dishonesty just so they can claim to champion some cause, which has the unfortunate effect of the author missing the entire point altogether.

11 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Cas
  • 2019-10-08

Phenomenal book!

One of the best audiobooks I have ever listened to. Very timely content for what we as humanity are experiencing now.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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podcast

it's like an extended version of his Podcast. I loved them both. I wanted a bit more tho. felt a little short but adored every minute

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim
  • 2019-09-11

Enjoyable listen with some facts incorrect

I enjoyed listening to this audiobook.

I take issue with some of the passages in the section where he writes about me. I’m James Mitchell, the person who interrogated 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM). Some of what Gladwell writes confounds elements of different instances into unrelated events. These are factually incorrect, He could have cleared these up had he bothered to talk to me before he went to final print, but he didn’t. I won’t address those here.

More importantly, Gladwell implies that Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs) were (1) used to pressure KSM into “confessing” to attacks; and (2), that efforts to question KSM about future attacks were marred because KSM was being subjected to EITs when he provided information that the CIA used to disrupt plots and capture or kill terrorists still at large. But, those two things are inaccurate. I know it makes for a better story, but that’s just not what happened.

EITs were never used to pressure KSM to “confess” to anything…period…full stop. And, EITs were not—let me repeat— not being applied when KSM provided information that helped CIA prevent a second wave of 9/11 style catastrophic attacks on the West coast or aided in the capture terrorists still at large. I explain all this in my book (Enhanced Interrogation) which can be found on audible.

Finally, Gladwell makes much of KSM confessing in open court to a large variety of attacks and plots (including 9/11 and killing Daniel Pearl). Gladwell seems to be saying that KSM confessed to these things because, years after their brief use, the EITs compelled him to confess to things he didn’t actually do. To be clear, we did not discuss many of the things on KSM’s confessed list during his interrogations and debriefings. My guess is that if KSM confessed to crimes he didn’t commit, then it was to imbed his true crimes in a list of bogus plots in order to cast doubt on his confession later, should he need to or simply to mess with court proceedings. It is not necessary to evoke the boogie man of cognitive impairment to explain KSMs duplicitous behavior.

Readers interested in exploring this topic further should read the SSCI Minority Report dated June 20, 2014. That's the minority report, not the majority report.

2,305 of 2,471 people found this review helpful

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  • Jenny
  • 2019-09-11

A new era in audio books...and maybe in relating to others

I am ruined forever on all the usual audiobooks. This was utterly fabulously produced, and now I shall expect all audiobooks to sound like fascinating podcasts ;) Ha! Really though, Malcolm has dramatically raised the bar on audiobooks.

Second, I just had a conversation in which my husband and I were talking about how complex people are....that sometimes things are not as they’d first seem. True to form, Malcolm sweeps us into a story about one thing, and then suddenly it is about something totally unexpected yet profoundly relevant in helping us see and understand the story (and characters in it) at hand.

This book has moved me toward working to hold a more gracious posture in my interactions with others and myself without sacrificing wisdom. I cannot forget the three interlocking realities he explores in this book: default to truth, the illusion of transparency, and coupling. If everyone in America could sit quietly with this information and truly consider it, we may perhaps create a kinder—and wiser— society. I’m recommending this to everyone. Although, some content is not intended for young ears. Parents be aware if you’re listening in the car with kiddos in the back.

305 of 341 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • 2019-09-14

This is a "should read"… Thought-provoking

I've been a member of audible since two months after its creation. This is only the second review I have ever posted with a library size numbering in the thousands and countless other books that I have returned; now I'll tell you why I am posting.

I have always enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell's books so I was a bit apprehensive because I had read a few notable book reviewers reviews on this most recent publication. Therefore my mindset going into the book was cautious tending towards a negative perspective.

I almost stopped reading after the first few chapters as I really could not buy into the perspective and underlying assumptions being posited. Nonetheless, I could not dismiss them out of hand and given Mr. Gladwell has been, for the most part, in his writing apolitical I pressed forward and glad I did.

By the time I ended the book I can say this, regardless of your political bend this should leave you with some thought-provoking questions about society, our governmental structures, and how we view one another. The sophomoric approaches pontificated by politicians offering some law that will resolve all things is "magical thinking". The currents social drumbeat to see others outside your circles ['strangers' as defined by Mr. Gladwell] as threats and believe we can discern their intentions and motivations better than they can themselves are factual states of being in our time.

'If you don't agree with me therefore you must be evil' mindset is not helping any of us to understand another. Given the thought-provoking postulates of this book I wonder if we would come together as a nation if faced with, God forbid, another 9/11 event as we once did just a short few years ago.

I hope you take the time to read the book. If you do decide to read the book I hope you'll set aside your own presuppositions and hear out Mr. Gladwell. I don't endorse all he has put forward but I applaud him for identifying and articulating clearly a problem we all face.

298 of 340 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-09-23

Deeply disappointing

I started listening to MG years ago and found his books to be insightful, considerate and fair minded. The last book I listened to was a little disappointing because there were a few instances in which the continuity of his logical analysis was broken. This book just got worse. Maybe it is because I’ve listened to volumes more nonfiction since those first books or because I’ve now spent many years in scientific studies myself or because of formal instruction in literature review, and if I went back the same inconsistencies would be there in past books. Perhaps his analysis of a topic has gotten worse, I don’t know. In this book he tends to establish some premise (several times) that governs the interactions of strangers, citing researchers, landmark studies, and field experts, then he applies the premise unevenly to the topic, or even one sidedly. Moreover he applies landmark experimental findings to situations that they were never meant to define, this is logical fallacy. Experiments are highly specific, they are designed to test small ideas and eliminate as many confounding factors as possible, they cannot be so broadly applied. It’s dishonest and creates false conclusions or at very least un-validated conclusions. This book is rife with misapplied science and one sided or unbalanced applications of concepts.

291 of 334 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-09-17

OK, but feels like it never gets to the point.

I bought this book thinking it was more like a how to guide in dealing with strangers, tips / techniques, etc.

The book is really a bunch of case studies spanning the last century. I kept waiting for a conclusion or a final chapter tying all the ideas presented throughout the book together but I feel like that never came.

It was still an interesting book and I don’t feel like I wasted my time, just really not what I was expecting.

276 of 325 people found this review helpful

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  • Lacie
  • 2019-10-17

There needs to be a warning about the content

I am so utterly disappointed with this book. I have thoroughly enjoyed the other Malcolm Gladwell books that I have read. however, this one crossed a line. I was not expecting to hear in such graphic detail about some of the testimonies in child molestation and rape cases. Why is there a description of a full-grown man inserting himself into a young boy?! how did that serve this book? I felt like this was more about shock factor and less about content. There could have been other ways to get to the fairly weak points he makes in this book.

I really wish I could have exchanged this book. It was so graphic and disturbing I could barely get through the parts that I did. Not at all what I was expecting. I was so caught off guard.

277 of 332 people found this review helpful

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  • Charlie :)
  • 2019-09-18

Wow – What a letdown. Left me aggravated on many l

Ok I’m going to say first that I have loved some of this authors other books but this was by far a real let down. He seems to be grasping for gotcha hot topics from T.V tabloids and pop news networks. There is some interesting information but the conclusions that he tries ever so hard to force the reader into coming along with are full of bias and miss direction. I get through between 60-75 book a years and rarely do I have one that just makes me feel “how can someone draw this conclusion from the information”. I even went back and review some of the information presented and it is simply very bad. I’m sure I will get another one of his books because not everything can be great, but this is going to lead people who don’t think critically or who go and do research regularly filled with bias and misdirection of so many key pieces of information.

Secondly there is un need background noise “music” during the audio. It is distracting and distracting. I feel it is fine going into and out of chapters, but it is in random places here “I assume to paint an effect and support the mood he is trying to lead the read in”

I would suggest skipping this one although I’m sure with the marketing behind it and his other success this book will rank high on the charts. I do not regret the credit used, because I now have more reference to the fallacies of people logic and how easy it is to put out bad information and watch how quickly some will take it is fact.

91 of 109 people found this review helpful

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  • Jackie
  • 2019-09-13

Good, Not Great

This book is full of fascinating and interesting cases, studies, and analyses, bookended by two ridiculous chapters. Mr. Gladwell spent a great deal of time developing theories and arguments, only to fall short of tying them together to prove his point. This is unfortunate. I was left disappointed with the lack of coherence between the meat of the book and the support for his thesis. Worth the read/listen for everything in the middle, but don’t expect that information to relate to the conclusion.

89 of 108 people found this review helpful

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  • Ellese Golder
  • 2019-11-21

Sensationalised & potentially triggering

Gladwell seems to want to capitalise on past tabloid stories that captured the public's attention by using them to support theories that he's cobbled together through cherry picked studies and anecdotal evidence. The logic is a little thin and some conclusions seem premature but it's meant to be an entertaining read/listen, not a scientific text, so that can be forgiven.

What I feel needs to be addressed, however, is that in trying to make a case for the phenomenon of "coupling" (that certain behaviours are directly caused by locations) he instrumentalises the suicide of Sylvia Plath, leading to an entire chapter discussing suicide that is confused, careless and insensitive. Blithely positing that the deaths of so many troubled people could have simply been prevented, had someone just stopped them from going through with the act in a moment that life threw them an easy way of doing it, is negligent. This idea causes huge amounts of distress to anyone who has ever had any personal experience with suicide, which by Gladwell's own account is a considerable percentage of the world's wider population, and should have been backed up with extensive research and handled with care. The chapter not only doesn't offer sufficient evidence but Gladwell outright contradicts himself in that every suicide he cites (Plath, Sexton etc) was committed by someone who had attempted it multiple times in a variety of ways. I really fail to see why the chapter was included at all- it just gives the book an air of absurdity.

Should you want to save yourself the time of reading it, here's the take away: When talking to strangers take care to consider that many factors may be exerting their influence and cause you to gravely misunderstand the situation.

I would like to offer the same advice to Gladwell when talking about suicide.

46 of 56 people found this review helpful

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  • jai
  • 2019-10-24

I used to be a Gladwell fan...

What was that?! It was missing sooo much content - it even missed the obvious conclusions. Gladwell over-simplified most topics and the outcome almost ruins his credibility. This book wasn’t worth the wait. But because his past books were so good, he gets one last shot for redemption for me. I hope his next book is well researched and fully supports his premise

41 of 50 people found this review helpful

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  • burkes
  • 2019-10-31

important

this is such an important book for our times. we cannot begin to heal if we can't understand the challenges of simply listening to one another.

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  • Axel
  • 2019-10-04

Deceiving title

A boring succession of random stories meant to prove a single point : everybody lies. Not what I expected.

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  • Client d'Amazon
  • 2019-09-25

If this is the future of audiobooks, beam me up Scotty !

Amazing audio production of an excellent book. Gives a lot to think about, as always with Gladwell’s production, and the incredible delivery quality makes it entertaining as nothing else. Kudos Pushkin Industries !