Book Review -- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

My friend sent me a list of books that her book club has set out to read for the year.  This title jumped out at me first.

I think I picked this book because I've always suspected that I'm a closet introvert, meaning that despite my efforts to appear social and be outgoing, I'd really rather not be.

Well, if the research and commentary in this book hold any water at all, then my life long suspicions were correct.  I do fall into the category of "introvert".  Previously  I  believed the word "introvert" to be something akin to a four-letter word!  Maybe because that's how the world views it too?  I can remember an instance when I referred to one of my children as shy while in the presence of someone I greatly admire.  This person said, "Oh don't let her hear you say that!  She'll start to believe she really is shy! And then she will BE shy!  You don't want that, do you??"   Yes, perhaps I grew up thinking that being quiet, shy, or "slow-to-warm-up" just wasn't as good as being confident, well-spoken, and bold.

 This is a long book.  I actually listened to it on CD while I was preparing lesson plans at night over the course of a couple of weeks and it has 9 CDs.  I wish I had kept a journal while I listened because I had so many reactions on so many levels. I don't think I can quite do them justice in one little blog entry.  My emotions and thoughts were all over the map and went from contempt, to interest, to skepticism, back to interest, then to gratitude, and pleasure, then a dose of dismissal (more on that later), then receptivity, and partial acceptance mixed with partial denial.  On the whole I liked it.

I will say that I'm very glad I read this book. It has given me such insight into my own personality.  It has given me the validation and motivation to keep being who I really am, without feeling guilty!  Yes! I used to feel guilty when I didn't want to go hang out with my college roommates at the parties!  I used to slink down on our dingy sofa so passersby wouldn't see me enjoying a quiet night to myself after an exhausting week of school.  Yes, I used to feel guilty for wishing that the karaoke machine had never been invented, or for preferring to make my own birthday dinner rather than letting friends take me out.  I do have friends, mind you.  But I do better in smaller groups, with just a couple of close friends that I can really develop a good relationship with.  And for some reason, after all these years, I finally feel liberated to just accept that as part of my "self" and enjoy it without feeling compelled to put on a show for others. 

Don't get me wrong. I can be social. I used to love performing in plays even. And I did tons of team sports.  And I was in a ton of clubs, I can confidently speak in public, and I function just fine in nearly every social situation you can think of.  But those activities are super draining for me, like Kryptonite!  And I always need plenty of secluded down time afterward.  After reading this book, I somehow felt better about referring to myself as an introvert, at least in part. In fact, if you're an introvert looking for a pick-me up definitely read this!  You'll find the author putting you on quite a pedestal.

The author went so far as to suggest that perhaps the 2008 financial crisis could have been averted if we'd had more observant, careful, deep thinking introverts on wall street rather than a lot of risk-taking, hot-headed extroverts.   We'll never know.  But it's an interesting argument.

In addition to the insight I gained on my own life experiences and temperament, I think I gained a lot of clarity on the personalities and temperaments of my children.  I have some definite introverts and some extroverts too.  The book discusses at length how two meld these to vastly different beings into compatible relationships.

 The book has some very interesting things to say about the constant barrage of "group work" that is forced on kids in public school.  Everything from seating arrangements to reading assignments is meant to be done in groups. Turns out that not all kids thrive on group work.  SHOCKER!!!!  Turns  out that lots of quiet time and individual work can be a really good thing! I think most homeschoolers already know this.

So, the only part that I really had to just dismiss was the discussion of the evolution of the brain and the impact it has had on our human temperaments.  My brain did not evolve from a monkey.  My brain was made for me by a God who loves me. Thanks!  Your brain and my brain may have some similarities, but that doesn't make me any less special or unique.  Nuff said.  I also didn't care much for the lengthy comparisons between Asian and American cultures.  Although Cains seemingly tries to remain neutral, I sensed some American culture bashing going on.

This book is worth the read.  I think you'll definitely gain some insight into your own personality and those of your loved ones.  And this in turn may help you in your relationships and parenting approach.  I recommend it and give it 3.5 stars.