Published on [Permalink]
Reading time: 2 minutes
Posted in:

Talking to Strangers

  1. Malcolm Gladwell tries to explain the death of Sandra Bland by the way of the Hitler-Chamberlain meetings, Cuban double-agents, college student alcohol culture, an episode of Friends, and Sylvia Plath’s suicide by gas oven. Huh?
  2. The pieces actually fit, and — a few abrupt interludes aside — the story flows nicely. His previous books were also stories and not scientific review articles, which people tend to forget, but this one more so than others. Which is good, since people tend to misunderstood him for a Pinkeresque academic with pop culture pretensions rather than a journalist having fun.
  3. A single point of disagreement: his portrayal of Ferguson, MO police as misapplies of hot spot policing rather than racketeers rang false to my layman ears.
  4. Gladwell has become a podcaster, and it shows in how the book is structured: it reads like a podcast script. I haven’t listened to the audio version, but this may be the one case of a non-fiction book that is better listened than read.
  5. But if you don’t have the actual book, you won’t get to read the extensive notes, on of which directly refutes a whole chapter of Blink. Another is an excellent parallel between indiscriminate police searches and cancer screening tests. Too bad he didn’t use actual footnotes (but then people would also complain, see no.2).

Written by Malcolm Gladwell, 2019

✍️ Reply by email

✴️ Also on