Saturday, December 22, 2012

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Several months ago I provided a rather pithy review of Susan Cain’s nonfiction book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. However, since this is one of the better nonfiction books I read in 2012, I wanted to provide a more comprehensive critique.

Quiet was just the rationalization I was looking for to justify my hardwired inclinations to isolate myself from the world, and it made me question why I even needed to pardon that proclivity. Unfortunately, this is also why Quiet wasn’t as good as it could have been. 

Cain’s examination of quietness goes beyond the individual to the global. In fact, she connects events such as the Wall Street meltdown and the endless succession of wars to the extroverts of the world who are so forceful and self-assured that they rampage unchecked, dragging the rest of us along in their force field. Of course the irony here is that it takes two to drag, the dragger and the drag-ee.

Quiet also examines introversion in a variety of contexts, like families (e.g., the quiet kids vs. ring leaders) and work (e.g., the invisible cubicle mutes vs. the verbose water cooler jockeys), all of which felt familiar and gratifying in a somewhat unsavory manner. It also identifies the contributions of famous introverts of the world (i.e., J. K. Rowlings, Albert Einstein, Charles M. Schulz, Meryl Streep, Warren Buffett, and Rosa Parks). In fact, Cain glorifies introverts and vilifies extroverts to the point that I, as one reviewer observed, “…got tired of being patted on the head.”

Since Quiet is on the “best nonfiction of 2012” list of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, People Magazine, Goodreads, Today Show,, and many others, I could speculate that introverts are the readers of the world and also drive sales of books written to help them stop being introverts. But I won’t. 

Bottom line, I liked Quiet and it will make my best of nonfiction 2012 list too, but I suspect that extroverts who read it will be ambivalent in their imperviousness, and introverts who read it will feel ill at ease with their newly acquired self-righteousness.

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