Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know
Are sitcoms teaching us the wrong lessons about how to talk to strangers? How did Bernie Madoff fool so many people? And what happens when things go wrong on college campuses? In “Talking to Strangers,” Malcolm Gladwell asks why our first impressions can lead us down dangerous paths. By examining how we talk to strangers, Gladwell looks at the misunderstandings and conflicts that shape our lives.
Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University. After earning her doctorate in early modern European history, Carlton worked as an assistant professor of history at the University of Louisville, where she developed new courses on the history of science, Renaissance Italy, and the witch trials. Carlton has published five peer-reviewed articles in top presses and a monograph with the University of Chicago Press. She also earned tenure with a unanimous vote before relocating to Seattle. Learn more about Carlton’s work at genevievecarlton.com.
Essential Books for Students
I’m big into reading, and since you’re on this page, I’m guessing you like reading at least a little bit as well. This page is an ongoing log of books I find to be awesome or useful.
Yep, I put my own book on the list. There might be a bit of hubris involved here, but I’m extremely proud of how this book turned out. Initially, I set out to write a book on how to study efficiently, defeat procrastination, and stay organized – as I wrote, the project became much grander. The final product is a 100+ page book covering 10 different topics that factor into your grades. In addition to the topics I already mentioned, you’ll learn how to read textbooks effectively, take better notes, write great papers, eliminate distractions, and more Also, it’s completely free.
If you’re going to college – especially in the U.S. – you need to read this book. I may have graduated with no debt, but the average college graduate these days is coming out of school with around $30,000 of it. Having that amount of debt will limit your options when it comes to jobs, where you can live, etc. This is not how it should be. This is not how it has to be. Debt-Free U will show you how you can go to college and avoid debt – even if your family isn’t loaded.
I love this book like a son. Ok, maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic – I’m not cooking dinner for it if it suddenly becomes sentient and tells me it’s hungry. But still – this book is absolutely amazing and I’d consider it essential reading for anyone who falls under the category of “human”. As it turns out, habits shape much more of our behavior than we realize. The habits we do have largely determine the progress (either good or bad) we make in life. Luckily, the way habits are formed can be understood – which means they can be changed – and The Power of Habit is the best overview of how habits work that I’ve ever read.
Nick Winter is a crazy dude who did a 120-hour workweek, built two successful startups, learned to throw knives, and pledged $7,290 in order to force himself to write this book (and jump out of an airplane). He doesn’t really subscribe to the whole, “willpower is a limited resource” ideal – instead, he looks for ways to summon massive amounts of motivation so he can achieve anything. This book is an account of his quest to achieve several crazy goals in a very short amount of time, and it also details his methods for hacking motivation.
It’s over 15 years old now, but Cal Newport’s How to Win at College is still one of the best primers for college success I’ve ever read – especially when it comes to things beyond your grades. It’s a short read (I read it in about four hours), split into 75 “tips” that each take up 1-4 pages. I read this book as a freshman, and it’s one of the biggest reasons I was so focused on success in college; the book provides a great foundation for becoming a remarkable student and doesn’t weigh you down with idle words.
Whereas How to Win at College is a general, tip-based overview on ways you can become successful in college, this book gets its hands dirty by giving you an in-depth, well thought out method for pulling epic grades in all of your classes. The book is based around that fact that there are many college students who get straight A’s, yet don’t study for more than a couple hours a day and still have plenty of other things going on in their lives. It lays out effective strategies for note-taking, quizzing yourself, writing papers, and more. If you want to be like one of the aforementioned students, get this book.
I listened to this book during a six-hour drive to a friend’s hometown a few years ago, and I honestly think it changed my life. The habits Covey describes here seem obvious at first, but you’ll probably notice that you aren’t following all of them. I know I wasn’t. Take Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood – how many of us actually do that? Before reading this book, I would always think very selfishly in my conversations. Whenever I’d listen to someone else speak, I’d listen – but I’d also be actively formulating my (usually self-serving) response and looking for the perfect moment to throw it in.
“The Book of Longings” by Sue Monk Kidd
In her mesmerizing fourth work of fiction, Sue Monk Kidd takes an audacious approach to history and brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman named Ana. Raised in a wealthy family with ties to the ruler of Galilee, she is rebellious and ambitious, with a brilliant mind and a daring spirit. Ana is expected to marry an older widower, a prospect that horrifies her. An encounter with eighteen-year-old Jesus changes everything.
Their marriage evolves with love and conflict, humor and pathos in Nazareth, where Ana makes a home with Jesus, his brothers, and their mother, Mary. Ana’s pent-up longings intensify amid the turbulent resistance to Rome’s occupation of Israel, partially led by her brother, Judas. When Ana commits a brazen act that puts her in peril, she flees to Alexandria, where startling revelations and greater dangers unfold, and she finds refuge in unexpected surroundings. Ana determines her fate during a stunning convergence of events considered among the most impactful in human history.
“This I Believe: Life Lessons” edited by Dan Gediman, John Gregors, and Mary Jo Gediman
Based on the NPR series of the same name, “This I Believe” features eighty Americans ― from the famous to the unknown ― completing the thought that the book’s title begins. Each piece compels readers to rethink not only how they have arrived at their own personal beliefs but also the extent to which they share them with others.
The result is a stirring and provocative trip inside the minds and hearts of a diverse group of people whose beliefs ― and the incredibly varied ways in which they choose to express them ― reveal the American spirit at its best.
Julia is the education and personal development editor on the Insider Reviews team. Since October 2020, she’s written about a popular Harvard persuasive writing course, a free UPenn course that explains the science behind COVID-19 vaccines, and a bestselling self-help book seen all over Twitter. She’s also organized and edited a series on how to get unstuck during the pandemic as well as what to do when you get rejected from grad, medical, or law school. Through her work as a sex and relationships editor at Cosmopolitan and BuzzFeed, as well as a freelance lifestyle reporter, Julia learned that she loves interviewing experts and putting together stories that inspire people to make small yet effective changes in their lives. Julia is passionate about accessible, affordable education and is living proof that e-learning has the potential to make career transitions more attainable: During quarantine, she completed a five-month Coursera MasterTrack certificate program in Instructional Design from the University of Illinois while starting her role at Insider. You can say hi to Julia at [email protected] or shoot her a DM on Twitter or Instagram (she is @jaypugz on both). Learn more about how our team of experts tests and reviews products at Insider here. Learn more about how we review educational and personal development products.
Disclosure: Written and researched by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our partners. We may receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]