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Publisher's Summary

Malcolm Gladwell, host of the podcast Revisionist History and author of the number-one New York Times best seller Outliers, reinvents the audiobook in this immersive production of Talking to Strangers, a powerful examination of our interactions with people we don’t know. 

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. And because we don't know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world. 

The audiobook edition of Talking to Strangers was an instant number-one best seller, and was one of the most pre-ordered audiobooks in history. It seamlessly marries audiobooks and podcasts, creating a completely new and real listening experience.   

©2019 Malcolm Gladwell (P)2019 Hachette Audio

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)

"Talking to Strangers is a must-read...I love this book.... Reading it will actually change not just how you see strangers, but how you look at yourself, the news - the world.... Reading this book changed me." (Oprah Winfrey, O, The Oprah Magazine)

"Gladwell has again delivered a compelling, conversation-starting read.... At a time when the world feels intractably polarized, a book examining the varying ways we misinterpret or fail to communicate with one another could not feel more necessary.... With a mix of reporting, research and a deft narrative hand, Gladwell illuminates these examples with the page-turning urgency of a paperback thriller." (Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times)



Our favourite moments from Talking to Strangers

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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

Editorial Review

In his Audible audiobook Talking to Strangers, best-selling writer Malcolm Gladwell turns his keen eye on our relationship with strangers. Why do we so often fail to communicate? Why are we so bad at detecting when someone is deceiving us? Why did people trust Bernie Madoff with their money?

Narrated by Malcolm Gladwell himself, the Audible audiobook edition of Talking to Strangers draws on a cast of characters to create an immersive listening experience. Gladwell, who grew up in Ontario and is half Jamaican, is gifted with a clear and precise tone and dramatic pacing. You’ll revisit infamous deceptions, such as Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, and hear the voices of many of the players in real-life tragedies riddled with misunderstandings, such as the trial of Amanda Knox. There are interviews with scientists, criminologists, and psychologists as well as reenactments of court transcripts. The audio footage of Sandra Bland’s contentious arrest for failing to signal at an intersection in Texas is a visceral example of an exchange gone wrong. The protest song “Hell You Talmbout” by singer Janelle Monae is aptly used as the soundtrack.

Inspired by the number of high profile cases in the news about what he thought of as “strangers misunderstanding each other”, Gladwell challenges our false assumptions when encountering people we don’t know and how these can have dangerous repercussions not only for us but society at large.

Talking to Strangers is Malcolm Gladwell’s sixth title. It was one of the bestselling Canadian titles in 2019 and its Audible audiobook edition is one of the most pre-ordered in history. In addition to finding success on both sides of the border, it won a 2019 AudioFile Magazine Earphone Award. Gladwell is also the host of the popular podcast, Revisionist History.

" 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

What listeners say about Talking to Strangers

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Not as advertised

This book was marketed to me as a self-help style book that would give you practical strategies to talk to strangers. Instead it was a politically fueled rant about a bunch of times in history where people have been misunderstood and the disastrous consequences.

The book was well read and had many actors, and it's good if you're looking for a dramatic retelling of past events. However if you're looking for strategies to actually talk to the strangers they mention in this book, look elsewhere.

66 people found this helpful

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Weird, uninteresting stories

His random stories don’t make sense to me. I tried listen to it but i just want to drop it. I want a refund.

31 people found this helpful

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Malcom Gladwell got lost into the intersection

It's too bad he had to include identity politics into this book. I am no longer a fan, he lost me at the 1 in 5 pseudo scientific statistic...

16 people found this 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

22 people found this 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.

26 people found this helpful

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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.

8 people found this helpful

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Expected more

For the level of endorsements it received expected a lot more than just stories on how people did not talk to strangers correctly and led to downfall - little insight to skills or tools to use in own future interactions.

7 people found this helpful

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  • FB
  • 2020-01-19

Long winded. Preachy. Trite.

At times somewhat entertaining but overall a few observations, with one-sided cheery picked facts, spread over hours

6 people found this 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.

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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.

39 people found this helpful

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  • GMbienlire
  • 2019-10-26

Disappointing

I'm a fan of Malcolm Gladwell and was very disappointed by this book. I found it to be a string of disconnected stories awkwardly pieced together around a weak theme: talking to strangers. The book is about misjudging people and deception. It tries to demonstrate that defaulting to trust is a better option for human relationships than systematic suspicion. Where it really fails is in bringing in the theme of "strangers." It does not clearly state when people qualify as strangers to each other, and it is completely unclear from the examples as some cases are about foreigners, immigrants, out-of-towners, white vs black, and others are about people who work tightly together, or are part of the same community (judges, defendant), and teenagers who live with their parents and are yet deceiving them. I found the research interesting but incomplete and the analysis superficial. The author reads his own book and does an OK job at it. I prefer professional narrators. The book also includes audio clips and acted narration, like in a podcast. The execution is OK but not great. All in all, a less than average performance.

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  • Chuan Li
  • 2019-10-23

Far fetched theories on a few unrelated stories

This is by far the worst book I read from the author. I guess this his attempt to try something new, but failed miserably. His theories and observations are far fetched from reality. This book is a political statement more than an anything else.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-09-28

Unnecessary

Deadspin was right. Malcolm Gladwell had no business bringing up Jerry Sandusky or Brock Turner in this mess of a thesis statement that draws all the wrong conclusions about sexual assault and harassment—an issue he’ll never understand personally and goes so much deeper than “impulse control.”

111 people found this helpful

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  • John from NorCAL
  • 2020-01-05

Fiction or non-fiction?

I gave this book a chance and found it was highly opinionated. I can accept this, but in chapter 2 about 27 minutes where Chamberline signs an agreement with Hitler made an unlikely claim. It states that Chamberline wrote a vulgar statement in place of what historical data claims. For this reason I didn’t go much further. How do I know if the statements in this book are truth or fiction?

41 people found this helpful

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  • ba
  • 2019-10-04

Started good and ended well but was horrible in the middle

What you hear on the review is the first chapter and then it has nothing todo with the devil cops killing . then the middle is full of history lots and lots of history. If you like to year history from way back on all kinds of strangers meeting each other and fighting then this is the book you will enjoy. I hated all of it but the first chapter and the last chapter. He does a great job of telling a story and from a good point of view.

53 people found this 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.

2,704 people found this 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.

360 people found this 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.

187 people found this 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.

397 people found this 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.

360 people found this helpful

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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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  • Bora Ergör
  • 2021-12-07

I really hope all the audiobooks will take inspiration from this.

As a fan of podcasts and skeptic of audiobooks at first even though I started loving them in the regular format where it preferentially the author reads the book in this one it’s an actual audio production just like a podcast… Thank you Malcolm Gladwell and thank you to the Pushkin Industries !

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  • kroneldo28
  • 2021-03-01

Excellent!

Malcom did a great job here with the Sandra Bland case. The approach he took is very interesting and full of knowledge to grasp. I guess this is what they meant when they used to tell us at engineering school to learn something by working on a real project.

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  • Sebastien Hunziker
  • 2020-04-10

Loved my first audio experience

Loved it! It took me less than a week to finish the audio book. It would have taken me months to finish reading it. Allowed me to listen to the book while walking the dog. The story telling, the audios, the music blend great altogether.

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  • Nathalie
  • 2020-03-04

The first Malcolm Gladwell book I did not enjoy.

I am a big fan, usually.
Other books were well structured while this one is all over the place.
The audio by other people makes it difficult to understand, as the quality isn't very good.

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  • India nerjones
  • 2020-01-21

I couldn't stop listening.

this book was amazing, I found it so interesting and thought provoking, an incredible journey through Gladwell's skillfully pieced together and informative storytelling.

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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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  • 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 !