When it comes to books you find yourself reading, I think there are broadly three categories –
- Books that seem to just jump out at you and pique your interest, sometimes for no other reason than the cover or title appealed to you. The Sisters Brothers was one of these for me, and a book I really enjoyed.
- Then there are the books that are recommended. It was my friend at uni who introduced me to Infinite Jest and I’ll always be glad of it. There is also the book I’m reading right now, Rebecca (which I’m finding an excellent read), which was also recommended to me by a friend. This was after I recommended Song of Solomon to her, a recommendation I backed up by buying her a copy for her birthday. I really do love that book. I think recommendations among friends is probably my favourite one because there’s a level of intimacy there where you can learn or teach something about someone or the things you value and appeal to you.
- Finally there are books you search out for yourself or are compelled to read; maybe you’re going through something and you’re looking for a book that covers those kinds of topics.
For me Quiet definitely fell into category three. I remember hearing a lot about the book when it was first published and I bookmarked it in my mind as I found the ideas underpinning it interesting and close to my heart. I view myself as an introvert and found it comforting that there was a book getting coverage that trumpeted the values of introverts. You certainly don’t need to read the book to know that society seems to be geared towards and run by extroverts.
In the end though it took until January of this year for me to actually buy a copy with some of the book vouchers – the only thing I ask for and truly desire these days – I received for Christmas. What finally compelled me to buy it? Well, I was intent on making some headway on a fresh start this year and wanted to know if the book contained any information or wisdom about my introverted nature that I could better utilise in my everyday life. I was looking for answers to a puzzle that – if you read this blog regularly – I’ve only recently come to realise could only be served by other means, those being the medical attention for a mental illness (bipolar disorder, which if you want you can read about my struggle with here and here)
You see, every few months or so my moods level out and I think ‘right, I feel pretty normal now, I think I can try and get my life back on track, get a job, start seeing people again.’ Obviously somewhere along the line this is always exposed for the fallacy it is and any meagre progress I made would be jeopardised by another episode. In January though, with me not realising what was wrong and in the midst of one of these ‘getting back on track’ periods, I approached reading this book with relish.
Now I recognise I may have been approaching this book in a manner that was putting way too much pressure on the material and the author to deliver something akin to a magic bullet but what I can say is that, at the time of reading it I really enjoyed it and in hindsight I think it has probably risen in my estimations.
I wouldn’t say I learnt anything particularly ground-breaking for me, most of the time it simply offered studies and data to support ideas that honestly, I’d had in my head for a long time. Like the concept of Deliberate Practice , or simply the more considered nature of an introvert compared to the sometimes blind over-confidence of an extrovert. Of course the book fleshed out these concepts with proper, robust terminology and real evidence, rather than the basic intuition of them I had in my head. But, because of this I can actually say that it did live up to the expectations I had as I did gain a somewhat deeper understanding of the processes behind what defines an introvert.
If I were to offer one criticism of the book, it would be how clinical, cold and corporate it is, with all of those terms very much interrelated in the way the book unfolds. The book is peppered with such passages as –
Back in the 1990s when I was junior associate at a Wall Street law firm, I found myself on a team of lawyers, representing a bank considering buying a portfolio of subprime mortgage loans made by other lenders
The whole book takes place in a rich and privileged world, the world of Wall Street and Harvard and corporate America, as if there are no introverts in ‘normal’ society or that introverts like myself aren’t worth investigating or talking about.
Still, I enjoyed the book and it does have interesting insights and good case studies and information to back it up and as I’ve already said, it’s definitely a positive to have a book like this out there and for it to be so well-known and well-received as it was.
Actually, to end I’ll say this. If there is a similar book about extroverts, I’d read it. I think that’s a good ending point and representative of the value I think is contained within this book and what can be gleaned from it if you are not an introvert or are an introvert and want a well-researched take on your personality type.