The Best Strangers in the World: Stories from a Life Spent Listening (Hardcover)
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“The Best Strangers in the World is a witty, poignant book that captures Ari Shapiro’s love for the unusual, his pursuit of the unexpected, and his delight at connection against the odds.”—Ronan Farrow, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and New York Times-bestselling author of Catch and Kill and War on Peace
From 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.
Ari Shapiro is the award-winning cohost of NPR’s All Things Considered, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States. In addition to his reporting, Shapiro makes frequent appearances as a guest singer with the “little orchestra” Pink Martini. He created the original one-man show, Homeward, in 2016, and since 2019, has performed and toured the stage show Och and Oy with Tony Award–winner Alan Cumming. He lives in Washington, DC.
“The Best Strangers in the World is a witty, poignant book that captures Ari Shapiro’s love for the unusual, his pursuit of the unexpected, and his delight at connection against the odds." — Ronan Farrow, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and author of the New York Times bestsellers Catch and Kill and War on Peace
“Listening to—and now reading—Ari Shapiro is both revelatory and comforting. Revelatory in how he coaxes out and shapes a story, comforting that he is actually doing so. He is a beacon of idiosyncratic frankness and curiosity in an increasingly banal and complicit journalistic world. Here, though, it is he who is the story, and his scoop is letting us meet his true self: as good and kind and effortlessly brilliant a man as you could hope to meet. Every page exudes his utter positivity and made me long for another adventure with him.” — Alan Cumming, New York Times-bestselling author of Not My Father’s Son: A Family Memoir and Baggage: Tales from a Fully Packed Life
"Personal and contemplative, but also funny and at times devastating, The Best Strangers in the World will instill a newfound appreciation for the hard work journalists do and a sense of awe for the scope of history they get to observe up close." — BookPage
“Ari Shapiro takes us with him from his boyhood in Fargo, North Dakota, to a globe-trotting journalistic career. The wonderful tale he tells is through the eyes of the people he has met as strangers and the stories of their humanity. Along the way there are lots of laughs and tears and important reflections that will change how readers see the world, too.”
— Nina Totenberg, New York Times-bestselling author of Dinners with Ruth
"What makes Shapiro’s memoir so remarkable is its meta-reflection about his place in the world and his growth as a human being....He is contributing to a necessary public conversation, centering voices that make us beautifully, imperfectly human." — Jewish Book Council
“This book is the dinner party conversation you're always hoping to have—empathetic and erudite essays that circle the globe but find time to zero in on sparkling, tiny details. With his breathtakingly vast set of talents, interests, and experiences, Ari Shapiro is one of the most interesting people you’ll encounter. But his beguiling memoir invites the reader to look outward with him. Like a true journalist, he isn't the story. Rather, The Best Strangers in the World captures snapshots of our complex world and its endless capacity for beauty. Infused with queer magic, intellectual curiosity, and music, Shapiro’s writing voice, like his reporting and performing voices, greets you like an old friend and invites you into a space you never want to leave.
— R. Eric Thomas, author of Here for It, or How to Save Your Soul in America
“The book keeps on giving, chapter after chapter, in turns humorous, introspective, or deeply serious, weaving together personal anecdotes, behind-the-scenes secrets, and heartbreaking profiles from war zones and refugee camps. Shapiro says he's built his radio career on ‘empathy, connection, and listening’— qualities that ring true in his writing as well." — Booklist (starred review)
“Shapiro’s confident, clear voice and self-deprecating humor, familiar to his many fans, translates well to the written word. His writing will resonate with many and is a treasure for biography readers. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal (starred review)
“This collection’s success is due to the author’s companionable, ever sincere tone, his willingness to be vulnerable, and his unwavering magnanimity. A clever and compulsively readable crowd pleaser.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Smart, humane and just a bit quirky, The Best Strangers in the World is exactly the kind of memoir one would expect from Ari Shapiro....The eclectic quality of [these] stories paints a vivid picture of his wide-ranging career and will leave readers and listeners eager to hear the many stories to come.” — Shelf Awareness
"In brisk and lucid prose, Shapiro recounts the ups and downs of his impressive résumé. … Shapiro’s style is engaging and unfussy, and his spotlighting of other people—mostly those whose stories he’s told on NPR—adds depth and empathy to the proceedings. Longtime listeners and first-time callers alike will delight in this collection." — Publishers Weekly