Title: “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”
Author: Susan Cain
Pages (paperback): 352 pages
Original Publishing Date: 24 January 2012
Synopsis (from the back cover):
“At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who prefer working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts — Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak — that we owe many of the great contributions to society.
“In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts — from a witty, high-octane public speakers who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.”
Trigger warnings for the novel:
I think the best way to describe how I feel about Quiet is this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. It wasn’t the worst thing I ever read, but it definitely wasn’t the best. Let me start with what I liked about it and then move on to what could have been…better.
For the most part, I enjoyed the research studies throughout the novel. One of my majors for college right now is Psychology, so this type of thing interests me. I never looked into the research surrounding introversion and extroversion, or just personality in general, and this was a nice introduction to it, outside of my own experiences of being an introvert.
I also liked reading about the real-life “examples,” especially Professor Little, the retired professor from Harvard. I think, in general, he was a very likable man, and I commend him for all that he did for his students. He definitely deserves to live in his isolated home in the middle of nowhere, if that makes him happy.
Now on to the things I either didn’t care for or didn’t like all together. First, and probably the biggest: Cain creates this dichotomy between introverts and extroverts that…just isn’t true in real life. Of course, there may be fundamental differences between the two. And sure, there’s people who fit in both boxes perfectly, a classic introvert or extrovert. But there’s so many more people who don’t fit into them. Me, for example. I’m an introvert because being alone or with a select number of people recharges me after a long day of socializing. However, I tend to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. I like listening to my music loudly. Sometimes I can’t wait to tell a (small) group of friends about what happened earlier that day. Even with all these things that may be stereotypical, extrovert traits, I am still an introvert, regardless of what the author says. I just didn’t appreciate this dichotomous view.
Second, by the middle of the book, I was bored with most of the examples of “successful” introverts. Cool, yet another rich, (presumably) white man on Wall Street is an introvert who just learns how to mask his introversion with “extroverted” traits. Just like every other “successful” introvert in this book. I get it, the author worked in that industry, and it’s familiar. But most people aren’t going to be able to relate to that. I sure didn’t. It would have been nice to see fellow introverts who didn’t work on Wall Street, or who weren’t upper-middle class, or who weren’t going to a prestigious university.
Third, this is a smaller issue I had, but it’s still something I want to bring up. throughout the novel, about two or three times, Cain speaks on social anxiety disorder and how, according to her, such a diagnosis pathologizes shyness and introversion. She even puts social anxiety in scare quotes. I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt that she didn’t mean anything sinister by this; she (most likely) truly believes this. But I have a problem with the assertion that SAD, or any other anxiety disorder, is simply “extreme shyness.” Because it isn’t. Take it from someone who is both shy and anxious: they aren’t the same. Shyness, to me, is just staying to yourself, maybe making a few comments once you’re comfortable. Being slow to warm up. Anxiety, on the other hand, is about the fear of the future. It’s mostly this fixation on a number of outcomes that are (usually) unlikely to happen. Which is why I don’t appreciate Cain conflating two things that shouldn’t be conflated.
So, yeah, overall, the book was alright, but definitely (in my opinion) has its issues, even if the studies explained within it were interesting. The research, along with the few people explained in the novel that I actually like, allow this book to have a 3-star rating instead of something like 2.5 stars.
What about you guys? Did you like this book more or less then I did?
Until next time~