A few weeks ago, err a month ago, oh let’s be real no one has a concept of time anymore. How about this – not so long ago a fellow blogger recommended a book that I quickly found out was in high demand at my local library. I wasn’t completely sure what the book was about but I trusted this person’s judgment on books so I put it on hold. I finally got it a few days ago and I’ve been glued to it ever since. The book I’m talking about, you ask? Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell.
It’s so weird. I heard Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame mention Malcolm Gladwell’s name in his weekly podcast, The Way I Heard It. Then this blogger that I follow mentioned this book. I figured I had to check the guy out. One might look at the title and think oh this is like one of those stupid self-help books that teach you how to put yourself out there. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. This book looks at how we perceive strangers, how they perceive us, and how this perception screws us more often than not. Gladwell offers case after case to illustrate how humans naturally default to the idea that the other person is telling the truth, how if the words and behaviors don’t match we don’t believe a person and how behaviors in different cultures mean different things.
Some of the cases Gladwell uses are Hitler, the Brock Turner rape case at Standford University and the Sandra Bland Police overstep incident right outside of College Station, TX. Those last two cases I plan to have my teenaged kids read. Both are very gritty but I feel like my kids need to see both sides presented here in this book. We get far more information about the cases including court depositions that the general public was never privy to. The Brock Turner and Sandra Bland cases especially made my blood boil and heart sink at the same time. In so many cases in this book you think to yourself, that could have been me in that situation if only the other person perceived me a certain way.
Even though this book was published last year, I found several parts of it to be relevant to our current situation of police overstep. A whole section of the book talks about how policing has changed in the last 50 years and how it has gone from keeping the peace to actually looking for crimes. That little piece of information and how it all got started blew me away.
I highly recommend this book for anyone trying to make sense of some of the things going on right now. It won’t solve any problems but it will give you another perspective which is never a bad thing.
Completely unrelated, I’ve started a new ritual. In the morning, as I drink my coffee and peruse various media outlets, I always hop on over to Facebook to read Sean Dietrich’s daily column. Sean Dietrich is a southern writer/humorist. He is the writer I wish I could be. The way he describes things makes me long for the rural southern towns my childhood, food made by old ladies and 30A. I invite you to google him and discover his work as well.
Photo Credit: Screen capture of my phone while I was listening to the book, Talking to Strangers. This is the cover art for both the print and digital edition. No copyright infringement intended.