Mario Luis Small, “Someone to Talk To” (Oxford UP, 2017)


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Who do people turn to when they want to talk about serious issues in their life? Do they end up confiding in people they list as confidants? In his new book, Someone to Talk To (Oxford University Press, 2017), Mario Luis Small uses in-depth interviews with first-year graduate students to uncover how intimate conversations are executed in real time. This book is interesting in the way that the interviews unfold; readers will find themselves nodding in agreement and thinking about social networks in new ways. A common theme throughout the book is how our behavior differs from what we may answer on a survey and under what circumstances it does so. For instance, weak ties, not strong ties, are relied upon more often than previous research would suggest. At the end of the book Small turns to empirical and theoretical generalizability finding many examples and surveys of non-graduates students echoing his study. In an era of big data Small encourages us to not lose sight of the human behavior we are studying and the stories behind the data. This book is rich with ideas and stories but would be easily digested by many different types of readers. Sociologists, and particularly those studying social networks, will find the book useful. Graduate students, advisers, and graduate program chairs will find the insights in the book invaluable. This book is a clear fit for a Social Networks class, but would even work as an example in a methods or theory class.
Sarah E. Patterson is a postdoc at the University of Western Ontario. You can tweet her at @spattersearch.
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