Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

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I recently decided to start reading more non-fiction, and as an introvert and lifelong lover of personality tests one of the first books I chose to read was Quiet by Susan Cain. Quiet explores the concept of introversion, and unlike some other non-fiction I’ve read recently it avoided the trap of flogging the subject to death in order to make a longer book. Quiet is well organised into sections covering the rise of the extrovert ideal, the theories about the roles of nature and nurture in introversion, introversion in Asian cultures, and how best to interact with introverted children, co-workers, and romantic partners.

Reading the book as an introvert, there wasn’t a lot in that felt mind-blowing. Instead, it confirmed many ideas I already had about introversion, such as the difference between introversion and shyness. Some of the work related studies gave me new and interesting information, and Cain has a very readable style with plenty of anecdotes and case studies. She manages to passionately advocate the strengths of introverts without putting down extroverts, instead focusing on how the two types can work together in harmony to get the best of both personality types.

On a basis-in-fact level, I thought some of the studies had strangely tiny sample sizes so I’m not completely convinced by the science. When some of these studies have been recreated with larger sample sizes, these theories might carry more weight. However, from my perspective as an introvert, most of the ideas put forward in the book felt true to my emotions and personal experience. I saw the theories more as interesting mental frameworks through which to explore and re-evaluate our cultural perceptions of introversion, and it that sense the book is completely satisfying.

The general response from introverts seems to be ‘Yes, that sounds true to my experience.’ I expect introverts are more likely to read the book, but I’d be interested to hear from extroverts who have read it, about whether it makes them think differently about introverts and introversion.

On the whole an interesting read, if not earth-shattering – a gentle brain gym for those of us interested in personality and sociology.

 

 

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