Friday, June 28, 2013

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (2012)

This might surprise you, but the archives / library profession tends to draw a lot of introverts. It's true! And because of that, Susan Cain's new book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (2012) has become de facto required reading among my colleagues and friends.

Cain synthesizes scientific and sociological research, case studies, and personal anecdotes into an exploration of the introvert/extrovert continuum in school, romantic relationships, work, parenthood, and life in general. 
I'm a definite introvert who has always talked a lot (some might say too much) and loudly (maybe too loudly) and who doesn't mind small talk and meeting new people. I've always felt before like my talkativeness might invalidate my introvert card, but reading Cain's book has given me an appreciation for all the different flavors of introversion out there.
The book also points out how the deck is stacked against introverts in modern America -- in the workplace, the media, and our school system, extroversion is seen as a positive and introversion as something to be hidden and improved. Cain describes study after study that shows that a more balanced system ends up being more successful in every situation. Make room for the introverts, jerks!
A few qualms: Some of the sections seem a little hurried; the chapter about introverts in other cultures that only focused on Asians seemed to delve a little into "all Asians are super smart" territory; I feel like she missed a chance to talk about personality and gender (that introverted tendencies are more often encouraged or tolerated in women than men); and I wish she spent more time exploring how introverts interact online (I know some of the quietest people I know are the biggest posters on Facebook).  
Still, I enjoyed reading this book and I feel like it gave me some insight into my own personality and into the personalities of the introverts and extroverts that I love, am related to, work with, and encounter. Even if you aren't a librarian or an introvert, this is worth picking up.

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