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.
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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