Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review: Strange Contagion by Lee Daniel Kravetz

Title: Strange Contagion
Author: Lee Daniel Kravetz
Format: ARC
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publish Date: June 27, 2017 (Today)
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

What's the Story?:
Synopsis: "Picking up where The Tipping Point leaves off, respected journalist Lee Daniel Kravetz’s Strange Contagion is a provocative look at both the science and lived experience of social contagion.
In 2009, tragedy struck the town of Palo Alto: A student from the local high school had died by suicide by stepping in front of an oncoming train. Grief-stricken, the community mourned what they thought was an isolated loss. Until, a few weeks later, it happened again. And again. And again. In six months, the high school lost five students to suicide at those train tracks.
A recent transplant to the community and a new father himself, Lee Daniel Kravetz’s experience as a science journalist kicked in: what was causing this tragedy? More important, how was it possible that a suicide cluster could develop in a community of concerned, aware, hyper-vigilant adults?
The answer? Social contagion. We all know that ideas, emotions, and actions are communicable—from mirroring someone’s posture to mimicking their speech patterns, we are all driven by unconscious motivations triggered by our environment. But when just the right physiological, psychological, and social factors come together, we get what Kravetz calls a “strange contagion:” a perfect storm of highly common social viruses that, combined, form a highly volatile condition.

My Two Cents:

 "Strange Contagion" is a look at how ideas, thoughts, and emotions can be passed between different people. When I hear the word contagion, I think about things like communicable diseases. They are passed from person to person because of people being in close proximity to others. In this book, Kravetz explores how this same sort of passing from person to person can happen with a whole array of things to include thoughts even when the person being passed the thoughts had never had that particular thought before.

I thought it was interesting that Kravetz was drawn to this subject after a rash of teenage suicides plagued his town. Now he happens to live in Palo Alto, California, one of the most affluent areas. It has good schools and the families that live there have the resources to be able to take care of whatever is illing them so the rash of suicides is puzzling. Kravetz wonders what is going on.

Looking at theories and data, he starts drawing connections between how our feelings can pass to each other and what is to be done about it. It is fascinating and something that I hadn't really thought about before but when you start parsing it out, it makes sense. If someone around me is sad or scared, I can feel myself picking up on that feeling.  Kravetz also explores how these catching feelings can also mean something good like innovation.

This would be a good read for those who enjoyed books like "The Tipping Point" or other books about things that on their face don't seem to have a real connection to each other but you find the connections when you're willing to dig a bit and consider the unexpected.


  1. I really enjoyed THE TIPPING POINT and other books like it, so I know I'll enjoy this book. The way thoughts and ideas move and grow is fascinating to me.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!


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