Whenever conversation lands on the subject of what kind of child I was my dad likes to tell the story of friends coming to ask me to go play with them and me declining in favor of reading a book. My grandmother says she could leave me to play with a cup of mixed beans and I would be happily occupied for an hour grouping them by color, shape, size or number of spots (this usually preceding or following accounts of my cousin turning the whole house upside down within minutes). I was a quiet child, as you can see, with clear signs of introversion from a young age. I never really grew out of it either, still hesitating to accept party invitations and perfectly content to spend my time in the company of one or two friends, or in quiet pursuits. When I first saw Big Bang Theory on TV I was so delighted, because although I'm not a Trekkie or a scientist in a lot of ways the guys on that show are my people. So it's no wonder that I would be compelled to seek out a book on introversion.
I am usually not a fan of nonfiction. These books tend to lose my interest relatively quickly and no matter how curious I am about the subject if the book isn't done in a style more populistic than academic I have to force myself to concentrate. So when I opened Quiet for the first time I braced myself for a laborious experience. Imagine my surprise and pleasure when Susan Cain started the book with an anecdote, signaling that it was going to be about people, not abstract concepts. Anecdotes like the one in the first chapter kept the book going for me, alternating stories about historical figures such as Rosa Parks, Dale Carnegie and Eleanor Roosevelt with stories about people Ms. Cain met in the course of her research. These stories provided the reprieve needed to keep the academic sections about studies and the science of it all from taking over, as well as an insight into the making of our high-energy environment.
One of the beauties of this book is the fact that it examines introversion and extraversion from a variety of angles, taking into account the significance of nature and nurture, societal norms and situational pressures, ability and desire to adapt and mimic traits necessary to succeed. It talks about introversion and extraversion at all stages of development, from childhood to old age, describing second-grader Isabel and the author's own grandfather as examples. It takes a look at how cultures affect temperaments of the majority, discussing differences between Asia and Europe and challenges people of both descents face. Best of all, it does all this in a language that is easy to understand.
It still took me a week to read Quiet because of the sheer amount and quality of the information. I would turn off my e-reader with thoughts and ideas clamoring for my attention, my mind trying to process everything I've just read at the same time. It's not a particularly exciting book, in the usual sense, but I was extremely excited to read it, sometimes for the validation it provided and sometimes for ideas on how to make it in a world where it literally pays to speak up, and loudly, without wearing myself out trying to be a polar opposite of who I am. I'm still excited about it and I think that everyone should read this book, regardless of temperament. After all, at least a third of us are introverts, and it's time we started really paying attention to and harnessing the power of quiet.
This is an incredible book; totally validating for those of us who are introverts. Cains research is exhaustive and illustrated that this wasnt some psychobabble by a new theorist.
Cain takes the historical approach to how America turned into the land of the Extrovert. In fact, business and industry have turned it into the ideal.
After explaining the differences between the introvert and the extrovert in the light of the latest psychological and neuroscience research, Cain shows what the introvert brings to the table. Everyone in business doesnt have to be an extrovert and Cain proves it through real-life examples.
I feel the strongest part of the book is the light she places on introverted children and how to help them accept their differences, help them strategize their difficulties (classrooms are mostly set up for group activities; this constant togetherness is hard on introverted children) and become successful people.
Cain also spends time with parents, helping them understand how they can help their introverted children to shine. She gives examples of extroverted parents with introverted children and extroverted children with introverted parents. I only wish this book were around when I was a kid; my aunt constantly took my book away and made me go out and have fun.
I feel that Cains message is uplifting: Even though Americans are mostly extroverts, introverts can make their mark by accepting their unique gifts and giving themselves the quiet time they need to think.
I expected to really like this book, but did not. The author picks and chooses which research to cite and then beats it to death. She treats all introverts as though they are the same and all extroverts as though there is only one type -- the person who walks into a room and is the life of the party. I expected a more balanced approach. I would not recommend this book.