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Publisher's Summary

A “meticulously researched and buoyantly written” (Esquire) look at what happens when we talk to strangers, and why it affects everything from our own health and well-being to the rise and fall of nations in the tradition of Susan Cain’s Quiet and Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens

“This lively, searching work makes the case that welcoming ‘others’ isn’t just the bedrock of civilization, it’s the surest path to the best of what life has to offer.” (Ayad Akhtar, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Homeland Elegies)

In our cities, we stand in silence at the pharmacy and in check-out lines at the grocery store, distracted by our phones, barely acknowledging one another, even as rates of loneliness skyrocket. Online, we retreat into ideological silos reinforced by algorithms designed to serve us only familiar ideas and like-minded users. In our politics, we are increasingly consumed by a fear of people we’ve never met. But what if strangers - so often blamed for our most pressing political, social, and personal problems - are actually the solution?

In The Power of Strangers, Joe Keohane sets out on a journey to discover what happens when we bridge the distance between us and people we don’t know. He learns that while we’re wired to sometimes fear, distrust, and even hate strangers, people and societies that have learned to connect with strangers benefit immensely. Digging into a growing body of cutting-edge research on the surprising social and psychological benefits that come from talking to strangers, Keohane finds that even passing interactions can enhance empathy, happiness, and cognitive development, ease loneliness and isolation, and root us in the world, deepening our sense of belonging. And all the while, Keohane gathers practical tips from experts on how to talk to strangers and tries them out himself in the wild, to awkward, entertaining, and frequently poignant effect.

Warm, witty, erudite, and profound, equal parts sweeping history and self-help journey, this deeply researched book will inspire listeners to see everything - from major geopolitical shifts to trips to the corner store - in an entirely new light, showing them that talking to strangers isn’t just a way to live; it’s a way to survive.

©2021 Joe Keohane (P)2021 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

“This is one of those remarkable books you may not realize you’re going to love (or need) until you’re well into it. The Power of Strangers is deeply and gamely researched, lucidly and engagingly written (as if by a pal), informative, thought-provoking, playful, useful, and possibly life-changing. What a great way to start the post-pandemic.” (Kurt Andersen, author of Fantasyland and Evil Geniuses)

“In a thrilling, immersive journey across time and continents, Keohane upends everything we thought we knew about the people we don’t know.” (Will Storr, author of The Science of Storytelling)

“Thank Zeus, human nature, and the brilliant Joe Keohane for The Power of Strangers, an illuminating, witty - and dare I say life-affirming - blend of psychology, anthropology, and lived human experience. I never knew, before now, why strangers are chattier at farmers markets than in supermarkets, or why the vital and broadly applicable craft of listening (and the gift of being listened to) feels so good. God knows this book is timely and necessary, in this struggling republic of ours. I not only love it, I'm grateful for it.” (Paige Williams, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Science, and the Global Quest for Fossils)

What listeners say about The Power of Strangers

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Disappointed

The book goes into extraneous detail and sometimes “rabbit holes” that are only distantly related to the topic.

1 person found this helpful

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Thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish

This book covered in great detail the science, history, and philosophies of talking to strangers. It is one of the longest audio books I’ve listened to, but I still found myself engaged with every chapter.

I stumbled on this book seeing it was mentioned in a news article about talking to strangers. Socializing has never been a strength of mine, and something I’ve wanted to improve. I also have found myself recently craving to talk and connect with people, so the book definitely peaked my interest.

For people who don’t have the time or patience to read or listen for 13 hours, you can skip to the chapters that share tips to improve talking with strangers.

I’d recommend it to my friends, I feel it definitely changed my perspective and shared very helpful tools and tips to improve communicating and strengthen connections with people you’re meeting or encountering for the first time.

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The power of a great book

I was expecting to learn generally what it took to have better conversations but this book offered so much more. In reading this book not only did I learn so much about the information the author shared but it gave me insight into myself in a way that was completely unexpected. I finished the book feeling as inspired and energized as I did informed and challenged.

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great perspective to get out of your head

enjoyed hearing the exercises they tried. lots of great workable takeaways to apply immediately and the history gives nice context to human behaviour. a little long, but I'm not mad.

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Not worth a credit

Kudos to the reader, Jonathan Ross, for trying to make this book listenable. He really tried. But alas…he failed. It needs so much editing and was not at all ready for publication. I was in the forest with nothing else to listen to and could still not listen to this. Drones on and on about the same things.