The Power of Strangers

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

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Brought to you by Penguin.

An interrogation of why we don't talk to strangers, what happens when we do, and why it affects everything from the rise and fall of nations to personal health and wellbeing, in the tradition of Susan Cain's Quiet and Rutger Bregman's Humankind

When was the last time you spoke to a stranger?

In our cities, we stand in silent buses and tube carriages, barely acknowledging one another. Online, we retreat into silos and carefully curate who we interact with. But while we often fear strangers, or blame them for the ills of society, history and science show us that they are actually our solution. Throughout human history, our attitude to the stranger has determined the fate and wellbeing of both nations and individuals. A raft of new science confirms that the more we open ourselves up to encounters with those we don't know, the healthier we are.

In The Power of Strangers, with the help of sociologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, theologians, philosophers, political scientists and historians, Joe Keohane learns how we're wired to sometimes fear, distrust and even hate strangers, and discovers what happens to us when we indulge those biases. At the same time, he digs into a growing body of cutting-edge research on the surprising social and psychological benefits that come from talking to strangers; how 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.

Warm, erudite and profound, this deeply researched book will make you reconsider how you perceive and approach strangers: paradoxically, strangers can help us become more fully ourselves.

(c) Joe Keohane 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021
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Product details

  • Penguin
  • United Kingdom
  • Unabridged
  • Unabridged edition
  • 0241991803
  • 9780241991800

Review quote

'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 'Keohane draws on an abundance of new research in social psychology which finds that connecting with strangers helps to dispel partisanship and categorical judgments, increase social solidarity and make us more interested in and hopeful about our lives' * Guardian * 'There is a hint of Bill Bryson about the author Joe Keohane: he wears his knowledge lightly and his exuberant curiosity leads him to inform his readers of a vast array of random, intriguing facts - so once you start reading you may find that you don't want to stop' * Independent * Joe Keohane has changed my life. The very thought of talking to strangers has always given me mild nausea and stress sweats. But after reading this book, I've been converted. Joe has inspired me to push through the awkwardness and reap the benefits: A more open and curious mind, less loneliness and depression. This book is an important tool in rescuing our tribal, smartphone-obsessed world. If you see me on the street, please say hi so we can discuss it -- AJ Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically 'Rare is the book that delivers on the promise of a big answer to an even bigger question, but Joe Keohane's The Power of Strangers does just that. 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, author of Homeland Elegies 'This is one of those remarkable books you may not realize you're going to love (or need) until you're well into it. Is it a work of psychology, philosophy, anthropology, history, cultural studies, self-help? All of the above! 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 Evil Geniuses 'Reading this book is like taking a college course that becomes a cult favorite because the witty, enthusiastic professor makes the topic seem not only entertaining, but essential. Possibly life-changing ideas supported with extensive sociological research, lively storytelling, and contagious jollity' * Kirkus * 'An eye-opening account blending sociology and self-help. After this enlightening and uplifting exploration, readers will undoubtedly view strangers in a different way' * Library Journal * 'This perceptive and rather chatty offering considers the sociological research behind why human beings are so averse to making connections with strangers, and why it's so important to do so. Journalist Keohane is a good storyteller and great proponent of engaging with the unknown, extolling the informational, emotional, and psychological benefits of talking to new people. This authoritative, thoroughly entertaining read comes along just at the right time,
and will help readers re-engage after their long quarantines' * Booklist * 'The lesson (...) is that the easing of restrictions is not just a coveted opportunity to reconnect with those you love and resemble. It also restores a freedom, long taken for granted, even if a little used, to come to know the profoundly different' * Economist *
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About Joe Keohane

Joe Keohane first saw interaction with strangers as the son of a funeral director. He has since practised talking with strangers as a journalist who has written and edited many types of stories for publications including Esquire, New York magazine, Wired, the Boston Globe and New Republic. He has also been the executive editor of Entrepreneur magazine. This is his first trade book.
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