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Nonfiction Review: The Best Strangers in the World: Stories from a Life Spent Listening by Ari Shapiro

Title: The Best Strangers in the World: Stories from a Life Spent Listening

Author: Ari Shapiro
Year published: 2023
Category: Adult nonfiction
Pages: 256 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map): USA (NY, DC, MA, SD), Syria, Afghanistan, UK, France, Sudan

SummaryFrom the beloved host of NPR's All Things Considered, a stirring memoir-in-essays that is also a lover letter to journalism.

In his first book, broadcaster Ari Shapiro takes us around the globe to reveal the stories behind narratives that are sometimes heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking, but always poignant. He details his time traveling on Air Force One with President Obama, or following the path of Syrian refugees fleeing war, or learning from those fighting for social justice both at home and abroad.

As the self-reinforcing bubbles we live in become more impenetrable, Ari Shapiro keeps seeking ways to help people listen to one another; to find connection and commonality with those who may seem different; to remind us that, before religion, or nationality, or politics, we are all human. The Best Strangers in the World is a testament to one journalist’s passion for Considering All Things—and sharing what he finds with the rest of us.

Review: I picked this book on a whim at a bookstore, feeling like it would fit the mood I was in. I don't know anyone who has read it so I went in cold, just knowing that Ari Shapiro is a great storyteller. And he sings with Pink Martini, so that's cool.

I enjoyed learning about Shapiro's life from growing up in South Dakota and California, to working in New York, DC, and London (and many other places on assignment) to his singing adventures with Pink Martini and in his cabaret with Alan Cumming.

Shapiro lures his reader in by showing us the stories of individuals while exposing us to the greater stories around them. He is genuinely interested in people: what makes them who they are; why they do what they do; and how we can learn from them.

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Literary Escapes--Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, South Dakota

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