Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Quiet by Susan Cain

The kinds of nonfiction that hit major bestseller lists run to a type: serious but friendly explanations about how the whole world is explained by X. Sometimes they're diet books, sometimes exercise -- quite often they're political -- and very regularly, they're things like this, talking about people by tossing them into a few very large buckets, making vast generalizations and almost equally wide-ranging prescriptions for society, and making the reader feel both smart and special in the end.

For Susan Cain and Quiet, the big explanation is the gap between introverts and extroverts, and, from the title, you can guess that she comes down on the side of the shy and unassuming. (You might not be able to tell from the Internet, but I'm a huge introvert myself -- most of us who read lots of books are, for obvious reasons -- which is why I grabbed this particular bus to begin with.)

It's a book that someone like me wants to believe -- that I'm special and wonderful and would be a massively productive and awesome member of society if only I could find just the right niche -- and I'm sure it will help some people. (It got me thinking about some aspects of my own life, which might lead to useful changes, or it might not.) It's reductive and middlebrow, though: you might feel smart and connected while reading it, but, afterward, you're likely to wish that you'd tackled something with some heft instead.

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