The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World

Random. Jul. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9781984855770. $28. SOC SCI
Journalist Keohane has talked to hundreds of strangers over the course of his career. These connections, whether fleeting or resulting in lifelong relationships, are the foundation of his first book. In three parts, the book asks, “What happens when we talk to strangers?” and “Why don’t we talk to strangers?”; the book’s final section, “How To Talk to Strangers,” offers guidance (with actual suggestions for small talk). Keohane’s book relies on his personal research, as well as methodical research in sociology, psychology, and other disciplines. He presents findings on how people approach strangers—from the “stranger danger” instilled in some young people, to physical, mental, or spiritual needs for connection—and the impact of external forces on strangerhood. Most helpful are the chapters about learning to talk to people from social groups other than our own, or people we disagree with. Throughout, the author shares dozens of stories of his own encounters with strangers. The book’s tone is encouraging, and its timing is ideal as many of us emerge from the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
VERDICT An eye-opening account blending sociology and self-help. After this enlightening and uplifting exploration, readers will undoubtedly view strangers in a different way.
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