The Power of Strangers
The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World
An exploration of why we don't talk to strangers and the wonderful things that would happen if we did.
In our cities, we barely acknowledge one another on public transport, even as rates of loneliness skyrocket. Online, we carefully curate who we interact with. In our politics, we are increasingly consumed by a fear of people we've never met. But what if strangers, long believed to be the cause of many of our problems, were actually the solution?
In The Power of Strangers, Joe Keohane discovers the surprising benefits that come from talking to strangers, examining 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, witty, erudite and profound, this deeply researched book will make you reconsider how you perceive and approach strangers, showing you how talking to strangers is not just a way to live, it's a way to survive.
Praise for The Power of Strangers
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 itAJ Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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