Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
[Note: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.]
Any book talking about quietness and introversion whose definition of introversion is so broad  that it includes me is probably speaking a bit too broadly, since although I am a fairly nervious and anxious person with a high degree of conscientiousness (at least in my own eyes), and a fairly sensitive person who needs a bit of down time and enjoys reading, I am also clearly a person who enjoys and thrives off of being around others and finds being lonely deeply frustrating. However, this book was clearly not written for me. So why did I read it? I happen to know a fairly large amount of people who are far more quiet than I am, do not seek debate or conflict as readily, and who are extremely caring and sensitive, and I wished to see if this particular book could help me understand and appreciate and get along with such people better, and not overwhelm them with my own extraversion.
All in all, this book is a mixed bag in a variety of ways. For one, it seems to have a scattershot view of seeking to describe introversion (in a very broadly defined way) in a variety of tasks, painting people with a very broad brush, so that possibly the widest possible audience can see themselves as an introvert in the eyes of the book, which the author probably calculated was good for sales. While this book does contain a great deal of useful material when it comes to appreciating and dealing with introverts and cultivating their approach and their talents, even in a society like that of the United States that seems particularly and sometimes artificially outgoing, this book has some clear and glaring weaknesses as well. Particulalry glaring as a weakness is the way that this book seeks to score political points by attaching a moral superiority to introversion that is unearned and also tying that moral superiority to leftist political rhetoric, pitting Moses against Jesus as a big-government social justice-seeking introvert against a shallow superstar extrovert, which grossly misrepresents both Moses and Jesus Christ. The book’s praising of Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Warren Buffet, and Ghandi is no less biased and politically troubling.
It should go without saying that this book would have been vastly better had it not had a massive leftist political agenda that the author did not openly and honestly and transparently admit, but rather sought to smuggle it in surrepititiously. This is greatly to be regretted, as the author has some serious and worthy points to make about the problems that this society faces in the way that it tends to force people to act more friendly and extroverted than they are with all of the personal stress and relational stress that this involves. It would appear as if there needs to be better, and less strident, communication and self-examination about who someone is as well as their core values and personality traits. One particulalry poignant problem that couples often face is that introverted spouses often show their “best” and most friendly self in public at work and then seek to show their real face at home, to the anger of their spouses, who get tired and worn out people looking to recharge their batteries instead of the vivacious people that others often see in public. I can speak personally that this has caused at least a little bit of strain in some of my own personal relationships.
Given that this book contains a great deal of sound thinking about how to appreciate a greater balance between introversion and extroversion, along with selective and biased and politically dishonest scientific and social analysis, readers are likely to be deeply ambivalent about this book unless they share the author’s biases. Those readers who do not share the author’s biases, or appreciate the intellectually dishonest approach and grossly oversold nature of the book will likely find some items of worth in the book to consider and ponder over, some material for reflection and thought, and some chaff to be tossed away as worthless and unprofitable. Since this book is such a mixed work, it is impossible to recommend it fully without providing some warning as to its contents and approach. Let a reader of this work beware that it is not quite what it sets out to be, but that it is not a total waste of time to read either. It falls squarely in between a high quality work and mere political puffery.