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THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
'Compelling, haunting, tragic stories . . . resonate long after you put the book down' James McConnachie, Sunday Times Book of the Year
The routine traffic stop that ends in tragedy. The spy who spends years undetected at the highest levels of the Pentagon. The false conviction of Amanda Knox. Why do we so often get other people wrong? Why is it so hard to detect a lie, read a face or judge a stranger's motives?
Using stories of deceit and fatal errors to cast doubt on our strategies for dealing with the unknown, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual adventure into the darker side of human nature, where strangers are never simple and misreading them can have disastrous consequences.
In this thoughtful treatise spurred by the 2015 death of African-American academic Sandra Bland in jail after a traffic stop, New Yorker writer Gladwell (The Tipping Point) aims to figure out the strategies people use to assess strangers to "analyze , critique them, figure out where they came from, figure out how to fix them," in other words: to understand how to balance trust and safety. He uses a variety of examples from history and recent headlines to illustrate that people size up the motivations, emotions, and trustworthiness of those they don't know both wrongly and with misplaced confidence. He relates, for example, the story of a whole cadre of American spies in Cuba who were carefully handpicked by American intelligence operatives, all of whom turned out to be pro-Castro double agents. Gladwell writes in his signature colorful, fluid, and accessible prose, though he occasionally fails to make fully clear the connection between a seemingly tangential topic such as suicide risk and the book's main questions. In addition to providing an analysis of human mental habits and interactions, Gladwell pleas for more thoughtful ways of behaving and advocates for people to embrace trust, rather than defaulting to distrust, and not to "blame the stranger." Readers will find this both fascinating and topical.