Narrator: Käthe Mazur
Published by Crown, Random House Audio on Jan. 24, 2012
Source: the library
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At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.
In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also 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. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.
Cain mixes the latest discoveries and theories in neuroscience and psychology with her own personal experience and extensive interviews and case studies. Her book is thoughtful, informative, persuasive, and entertaining. As an introvert, I was already familiar with many of the ideas she presents. But it was reassuring to find, for instance, that other introverts also learn to “fake it” as extroverts in public, or in their jobs. I learned to do that in high school, and it has stood me in good stead in retail jobs, as a teacher, and as a director.
To me, the defining characteristic of the introvert is not quietness, shyness, or reserve, though those traits often accompany introversion, and Cain focuses quite a bit on them. Instead, the defining characteristic, as per Myers and Briggs, is whether being with other people gives you energy or saps it. To be honest, I felt that Cain didn’t pay enough attention to this characteristic, though she does cover it. Nonetheless, if you find that interacting with a lot of people leaves you exhausted, and longing for some peace and quiet in which to recover, you are probably an introvert.
You may also be shy, reserved, quiet, introspective, risk averse, and inclined to think things through rather than act impulsively, but although Cain talks extensively about these personality traits and others, not every introvert shares all of them. In my case, I haven’t been shy since high school, I can be quite loquacious, and I’m sometimes impulsive. But I am introspective (sometimes too much so!) and risk-averse, and given a choice between a party where I don’t know many people, and staying home reading, I’ll take the latter every time.
One thing I didn’t realize before listening to the book is how differently other cultures perceive and value the traits associated with introversion. Cain contrasts Asian and American attitudes toward introversion and related traits, drawing heavily on interviews with Asian American students, both first- and second-generation. I found this section fascinating and illuminating.
If you are an introvert, or you love, live with, or work with someone who is (and I guarantee that you do), Cain’s book is well worth reading for the insight it offers into what it means to be an introvert, and how introverts can succeed in a culture that is in some ways inimical to them. Particularly valuable is the section on parenting or teaching an introverted child, should you find yourself doing either.
A final note: I listened to the audiobook, and enjoyed Kathe Mazur’s calm (not boring) voice and clear diction.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Audiobook Challenge 2019
- Library Love Challenge 2019
- The Backlist Reader Challenge 2019