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Click to search this book in our catalog Talking To Strangers
by Malcolm Gladwell

Library Journal The prolific, best-selling Gladwell (David and Goliath; The Tipping Point) presents an intriguing analysis of what far too often goes wrong when strangers meet, diving deeply into relatively well-known controversial public incidents thoroughly covered by the mass media to cast doubt on how the general public has come to understand these events. The deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, the suicide of Sylvia Plath, the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal at Pennsylvania State University, and the death of Sandra Bland highlight the premise that ordinary tools and techniques used to make sense of people we don't know have failed society. The result of this failure is further conflict and misunderstanding that impact international relations and even threaten world order. Many of the examples exemplify how race, gender, age, language, country of origin, perceived threat, challenge to authority, contextual setting, and other variables can dominate impulsive behavior that shuns connections among people. VERDICT This work should stimulate further research that could serve as control for these variables and more directly link how the factor of strangeness might influence certain reactions, providing a valuable contribution to psychology and psychiatry collections in larger university libraries.—Dale Farris, Groves, TX

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list Like his New Yorker articles and previous books, Gladwell's newest is chock-full of gripping anecdotes from the recent and forgotten past, from Amanda Knox's overturned murder conviction to the double agents who sunk the CIA's spying efforts in 1980s Cuba. He uses these riveting stories to offer up bite-size observations about how we engage with strangers. For example, we think of ourselves as complex but of strangers as straightforward. Not so, Gladwell insists. The stranger is not easy; she is never as transparent as we believe. Gladwell's case studies are thrilling, but their relevance to everyday encounters is frequently obtuse, and the takeaways from them are often buried or provocative. Ultimately, Gladwell argues that it's essential to give strangers the benefit of the doubt, even in very different situations, such as when Penn State president Graham Spanier accepted reports of Jerry Sandusky's suspicious behavior with a minor as horseplay and when Texas state trooper Brian Encinia pulled Sandra Bland over after a minor traffic infraction. Readers may find that Gladwell's alluringly simple lesson dangerously oversimplifies power dynamics in twenty-first-century America.--Maggie Taft Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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 [those strategies], 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. Agent: Tina Bennett, William Morris Endeavor. (Sept.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus The latest intellectually stimulating book from the acclaimed author.Every few years, journalist Gladwell (David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, 2013, etc.) assembles serious scientific research on oddball yet relevant subjects and then writes a bestseller. Readers expecting another everything-you-think-you-know-is-wrong page-turner will not be disappointed, but they will also encounter some unsettling truths. The author begins with a few accounts of black Americans who died at the hands of police, using the incidents to show how most of us are incompetent at judging strangers. Countless psychological studies demonstrate that humans are terrible at detecting lying. Experts such as FBI agents don't perform better. Judges interview suspects to determine if they deserve bail; they believe it helps, but the opposite is true. Computers, using only hard data, do much better. Many people had qualms about Bernie Madoff, but interviewers found him completely open and honest; "he was a sociopath dressed up as a mensch." This, Gladwell emphasizes, is the transparency problem. We believe that someone's demeanor reflects their thoughts and emotions, but it often doesn't. Gladwell's second bombshell is what he calls "default to truth." It seems like a university president resigns in disgrace every few months for the same reason: They hear accusations of abusive behavior by an employeee.g., Larry Nassar at Michigan State, Jerry Sandusky at Penn Stateconduct an investigation, but then take no action, often claiming that they did not have enough evidence of deceit. Ultimately, everyone agrees that they were criminally negligent. Another example is CIA official James Angleton, who was convinced that there was a Soviet mole in the agency; his decades of suspicion and search ruined careers and crippled American intelligence. Gladwell emphasizes that society could not function if we did not give everyone the benefit of the doubt. "To assume the best of another is the trait that has created modern society," he writes. "Those occasions when our trusting nature is violated are tragic. But the alternativeto abandon trust as a defense against predation and deceptionis worse."Another Gladwell tour de force but perhaps his most disturbing. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Oprah's Book Club
Click to search this book in our catalog A Fine Balance
by Rohinton Mistry

Library Journal: In mid-1970s urban India-a chaos of wretchedness on the streets and slogans in the offices-a chain of circumstances tosses four varied individuals together in one small flat. Stubbornly independent Dina, widowed early, takes in Maneck, the college-aged son of a more prosperous childhood friend and, more reluctantly, Ishvar and Om, uncle and nephew tailors fleeing low-caste origins and astonishing hardships. The reader first learns the characters' separate, compelling histories of brief joys and abiding sorrows, then watches as barriers of class, suspicion, and politeness are gradually dissolved. Even more affecting than Mistry's depictions of squalor and grotesque injustice is his study of friendships emerging unexpectedly, naturally. The novel's coda is cruel and heart-wrenching but deeply honest. This unforgettable book from the author of Such a Long Journey (LJ 4/15/91) is highly recommended.-Janet Ingraham, Worthington P.L., Ohio

Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

Publisher's Weekly: The setting of Mistry's quietly magnificent second novel (after the acclaimed Such a Long Journey) is India in 1975-76, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, defying a court order calling for her resignation, declares a state of emergency and imprisons the parliamentary opposition as well as thousands of students, teachers, trade unionists and journalists. These events, along with the government's forced sterilization campaign, serve as backdrop for an intricate tale of four ordinary people struggling to survive. Naive college student Maneck Kohlah, whose parents' general store is failing, rents a room in the house of Dina Dalal, a 40-ish widowed seamstress. Dina acquires two additional boarders: hapless but enterprising itinerant tailor Ishvar Darji and his nephew Omprakash, whose father, a village untouchable, was murdered as punishment for crossing caste boundaries. With great empathy and wit, the Bombay-born, Toronto-based Mistry evokes the daily heroism of India's working poor, who must cope with corruption, social anarchy and bureaucratic absurdities. Though the sprawling, chatty narrative risks becoming as unwieldy as the lives it so vibrantly depicts, Mistry combines an openness to India's infinite sensory detail with a Dickensian rendering of the effects of poverty, caste, envy, superstition,corruption and bigotry. His vast, wonderfully precise canvas poses, but cannot answer, the riddle of how to transform a corrupt, ailing society into a healthy one.

Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

CHOICE: A worthy successor to Mistry's award-winning Such a Long Journey , this wonderful, baggy, Dickensian narrative follows the fortunes of an independent widow, a college student, and two impoverished tailors who share a crowded apartment. The novel includes a large cast of memorable characters, whose stories range from brutal caste struggles in small villages to homelessness in flimsy shacks surrounding the sprawling city teeming with pavement dwellers, beggars, rent collectors, con men, and corrupt police. The novel's world is often cruel and unfeeling, but the characters struggle on, trying to achieve lives of dignity and meaning. Valmik (proofreader and sometime flack for a bogus guru) provides the novel's title: "The secret of life was to balance hope and despair." The Vishram Vegetarian Hotel cook tells the tailors, "You fellows are amazing.... Each time you come here you have a new adventure story." "It's not us; it's this city," replies the tailor, "a story factory, that's what it is, a spinning mill." Mistry's humorous and compassionate tangle of tales and characters is a story factory, too. And we listen spellbound to a master story spinner at work. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

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