Monthly Nonfiction: A “Quiet” Review

8520610Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Crown, January 24, 2012 (Nonfiction)

My rating: Liked the place, but the food was bad (2/5)

So here we are, another month, another nonfiction read. Normally, I’m not a non-fiction reader, but since I do moderate the nonfiction book club and work in the nonfiction department at my library, I try to make an effort. This October, the nonfiction book club took on Susan Cain’s Quiet.

I had heard Cain speak at the Ontario Library Association’s Superconference a couple of years ago and was intrigued. She was a great speaker and highly valued a number of personality traits that I felt I possessed. So when it was suggested that the nonfiction book club read Quiet, I was all for it.

I really wanted to love Quiet. It’s about introverts and much of what Cain points out is really powerful stuff. This book is filled with quotes and facts to back up Cain’s claim of the value of the introvert personality. Unfortunately, I did not find the written format as dynamic as I did when I first saw Cain at that conference. From page one, it is clear that Cain has done her homework. She knows what she’s talking about and that interest comes across. In the Age of Personality, the introverts are struggling to get noticed, and Cain goes on to demonstrate why introverts should be valued. They have skills that the extroverts in the world do not, and ultimately the two personality types balance each other out.

While I found the information shared in Quiet to be interesting, I really struggled to read this book. The style of writing and the focus on scientific studies made it very difficult for this fiction reader to actually get immersed in the information. There is no doubt that the information Cain shared is in and of itself fascinating, but I prefer narrative in my writing and that simply wasn’t present in this book. Had Quiet focused more on Cain’s personal journey as an introvert rather than the results of her research, I think I would have felt more compelled to read the book.

The other element that I felt detracted my interest in Quiet was the author’s focus on corporate culture. I work in the suburbs, and my library is in no way a corporate enterprise, in fact the corporate ideal is rather opposed to the mission of public libraries. Cain has a corporate background and many of the anecdotes and examples used in Quiet relates to this fast-paced, money-driven lifestyle; a lifestyle that I don’t have a huge basis of comparison for. It was a struggle to find connection to my own professional life when the focus of working introverts was in the corporate world. And at the risk of sounding stereotypical, libraries are rife with introverts, and so much of what Cain was saying is valuable about the introvert is something I see in action on a daily basis.

Now since I wasn’t a big fan of this one, how do I think it will do in book club? Ironically, I think this is going to generate a lot of discussion. A book doesn’t have to be a “gripping” read for it to be discussable. Cain presents some really interesting food for thought and the introvert/extrovert debate can certainly connect to most everyone’s personal life. I think the book club is going to love discussing this one and presenting connections to their own lives. So while I didn’t love this one, I don’t think it was a bad choice for book club, and if the club likes it and I don’t, well, I can happily live with that.

Ultimately, I didn’t love Quite the way I thought I would, but I’m glad I read it. Quiet validates a certain type of personality that doesn’t always stand out, and that is appreciated.

In lieu of my usual Similar Reads, I’ve thrown in a link from YouTube below, great for those not committed to reading Quiet. Take a look at Cain’s TED Talk below. Cain’s a great speaker and she sums of the premise of her book very well here.

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