Tom MacWright

I read Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell on


Talking to Strangers is a disaster. It’s unfathomable that it has spent several weeks on the New York Times list of bestselling nonfiction. Gladwell uses dramatic and tragic events as props to further his point, but then fails to make the point. His contrarian streak, once the key to his success, is now lazily employed to half-justify the actions of racists and rapists. He continues to use one-off studies and half-baked statistics to prove his points, even after mistakes in his previous books lost him the respect of most scientifically-minded readers.

I recommend skipping this one. I have respect for Gladwell’s earlier work, despite its issues. You also have to admit his 1500 meter times are impressive.

But what he’s doing now is bad. It’s bad writing, bad science, and bad for the intellectual sphere. I hope he can find a topic that’s more fitting for the style, and devote more time to analysis and rigor.