31 Days Of Great Nonfiction Reads {Day 28} Quiet

Quiet by Susan Cain Day 28 of 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Books to Read / Great Nonfiction Reads Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop TalkingQuiet by Susan Cain Day 28 of 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Books to Read / Great Nonfiction Reads by Susan Cain

This is a book that, while I love it and highly recommend it, I almost didn’t include in this series because it’s already gotten a lot of attention. And then I decided that too bad, I love this book so much that I can’t leave it out.

Quiet is a fascinating look at how our typical American culture that values extroversion severely undervalues or entirely misses the virtues and strengths of the introvert. There is historical information relating to how the “extrovert ideal” developed. There are examples of successful introverts and how they’ve managed to thrive in environments that don’t favor them.

I’m an extreme introvert, and regularly got treated like there was something wrong with me because I didn’t always want to go out, or meet friends, or, well, act like an extrovert. I’d love to be able to give this book to those people who constantly pushed me to be more social in high school, or acted like extroversion was more Christian and God-pleasing. Sadly, I am not even kidding about that last comment.

I love how encouraging Cain is about the strengths of introverts, and yet she’s not out of touch with the reality that, at least in contemporary American society, sometimes we may need to “fake” extroversion now and then in order to accomplish things that are important to us. And there’s a huge difference between needing to fake it from time to time, and unwisely choosing a career that demands too much that is counter to our natural personality.

If you’re an introvert, or if you know an introvert (and at 1/3 of the population, guess what? Odds are you do), I think Cain’s book is a valuable resource.

Publisher’s Description:
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society–from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.

Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts–from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a “pretend extrovert.”

This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.

Interested in more on the topic of introverts? I haven’t read it yet, but I am anxious to get to Adam McHugh’s Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture.

To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads, go to the series page.

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  1. Absolutely LOVED this book. Probably one of the most personally helpful books I have read this year. I am an introvert and never knew it. In part because I have learned to not be shy (probably b/c growing up as an MK my parents were diligent about making me think outside of myself to greet people, etc.). I do think that this book, though, needs to be read by church and business leaders. I think the extrovert ideal is SO widespread that it puts those that are not “out there” in a difficult position sometimes.
    Figuring out that I was an introvert continues to be one of my most helpful realizations. Even down to how I plan my weeks. My husband is a strong introvert and this book was helpful for me in understanding him better as well.

    • When I finished this book (after reading huge portions of it out loud to my husband), it was all I could do not to push it into the hands of everyone I came across. I think it’s helpful for introverts, but I think, like you, that it should also be read by church and business (and education) leaders ESPECIALLY if they’re extroverts.

      It’s hard for me to overstate how much I love this book and how much I wish I could get people to read it.

  2. I’ve read most of McHugh’s book (I got distracted by the Tyranny of the Library and now I don’t know what I did with the darn thing) and found it very interesting. Quiet is on my too-read list, for sure.

    I’m excruciatingly shy as well as highly introverted, and I can see how that plays out to my detriment in the workplace and some areas of my life, but honestly I couldn’t relate to a lot of the stories of introverts in McHugh’s book or in the reviews of it and Quiet I’ve read around the blogosphere. Somehow I was blessed to be reared in an environment that…I wouldn’t say valued introversion, necessarily, but saw introverted people as smart, so it wasn’t seen as a disadvantage. I’m sure it helps that my parents are also introverts, so there was never any familial pressure to be more outgoing or any implication that something was wrong with me for not having more friends (if anything, I bet my extraverted little sister felt like the weirdo who didn’t fit in). Most of my teachers were content to let me quietly read my way through school, and I do think Lutheranism is something of a denomination of introverts.

    Anyway, all that to say that I am an introvert who often doesn’t relate to the experiences of other introverts, but I have still found these books to be interesting and useful (and I definitely see the problems presented by the extraversion-valuing corporate world!) and want other people to read them. ^_^

    • I think you’ll still enjoy Quiet, even if you didn’t have the experiences of growing up in an environment that preferred extroverts. I only partially did (parents didn’t, some teachers did & some didn’t, church absolutely did), and I still adored the book.

      I hope you find the McHugh book and can finish it! I just got it this weekend from the library and am looking forward to reading more than the introduction. 🙂

  3. I LOVED this book, too! And can say somewhat similarly to Johanna’s background. I loved it so much that I had so much to write about it that I have yet to write a review from when I read back at the beginning of the year.

    It’s really helped me in understanding myself and other people, and my own children (though I think my third, now five months, may end up falling more on the extrovert scale than the rest of us).

    It also made me think how much attention we automatically turn to the extroverted child and often pass the introverted child by. 🙁

    Definitely one of my top 10 books for the year.

    • I’ve never really attempted to make a top 10 list for the year (although I’m thinking about it this year; seems like it’d be a fun post). I’m absolutely certain this one would make it. I love it when a book I’m excited about reading lives up to my expectations and then some. 🙂

  4. Oooh, adding this to the list, too!

  5. I know this is WAY past the time you reviewed this book, but I think this book is very important for introverts who think they can’t lead. It may be even more important for extroverts who have come to believe that introverts are somehow flawed. I’m an extreme introvert, and I’ve successfully held a senior academic leadership position for five years–I could never articulate how I could be both, but this book helped. I’ve given it to several smart young students who are introverts but don’t yet know the power they have.


  1. […] Quiet by Susan Cain LOVED IT. Kept reading excerpts of it to my husband, and he was really enjoying it. It’s all I can do not to push it on anyone and everyone I know. […]

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