Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Reviewer: Michelle Telling
So, it turns out that a book titled ‘Talking to Strangers’ was not as much about ‘talking to strangers’ as the title might suggest, but more like ‘how to interrogate and get the truth from bad people’. In addition, the book was described by those who had managed to get through it as disturbing as it included vivid descriptions of rape, child molestation and how to kill yourself using a gas oven, among other things. In short, this book was not what we expected when it was selected for our NZBWN book brunch.
That aside, we were a small group in December (it being the season of busyness for many), and we had a lively discussion around the themes of the book, along with a side-discussion on dating tips. The group felt this was not Malcolm Gladwell’s best work and many had read and enjoyed his other titles including ‘David and Goliath’, ‘Blink’ and ‘the Tipping Point’; all of these had a scientific basis, but ‘Talking to Strangers’ seemed more a cut and paste exercise with a little commentary on each particular case discussed.
The underlying theme was that the majority of us have a ‘default to truth’ when interacting with others, as the author put it:
‘You believe someone not because you have no doubts about them. Belief is not the absence of doubt. You believe someone because you don’t have enough doubts about them’.
‘Default to truth becomes an issue when we are forced to choose between two alternatives, one of which is likely and the other of which is impossible to imagine’.