Thursday, August 27, 2015

Nonfiction Mini-Reviews

Everyone knows that the confident, assertive one in your group at school or work is the one with the best ideas, right? Not so, according to Susan Cain. In Quiet, we learn that the power of extroverts is a societal construct. Before the Industrial Revolution, the focus was on people's character. Post-revolution, we judged each other based on  personality, as if being loud makes you smart or a good person.

Cain spends a fair amount of the book discussing how extroverts can benefit from cultivating their introverted qualities and introverts become more well-rounded by venturing into extrovert territory. She believes that there is nothing intrinsically good about being an introvert or an extrovert. Instead, the importance lies in accepting how we and the people around us operate.

There is a lot within these pages aimed at parents and educators. Our incessant focus on group work within the classroom can be damaging for introverts and extroverts. Cain also gives some tips for extrovert parents who have trouble understanding some aspects of their introvert children. While I wish she had also talked about the converse, so that this introvert parent knows how to better deal with the noise and chaos of small children all day, I still gleaned a lot from this section.

I was really fascinated by Cain's research into whether introversion and extroversion are traits we are born with or traits we develop from our surroundings and upbringing. We also read about sensitivity, which is a trait many introverts possess although it is not exclusive to them. Our level of sensitivity explains a lot about us, from the volume of music or noise we can tolerate or your distaste for very violent movies. This is a really fascinating and important book for both introverts and extroverts. 

By Susan Cain
Crown January 2012
352 pages
Borrowed from a friend

Benilde Little was a successful author with a wonderful family. But when her mother passed away, she found herself unable to escape the darkness of depression. How could she navigate a future without the advice and example of the woman who had taught her everything she knew? In this memoir, Little reminisces about her inspirational mother and bring depression out into the light as she details her battle to find joy again.

While I applaud Ms. Little for talking so candidly about depression, this memoir fell flat for me. She talks about her childhood extensively but she often introduces people who never show up again, which can be confusing and frustrating. The jumping back and forth between past and present was disorienting and it was often unclear what exactly in the present made her reminisce about this specific moment in the past. I realize that depression is a serious disease that can affect anyone, but I had some trouble being very sympathetic as she talked about her struggle to start writing again in the midst of her very wealthy life.

Welcome to My Breakdown
By Benilde Little
Atria Books April 2015
288 pages
Read via Netgalley 


  1. I have really been wanting to read Quiet. I'm an introvert and as a current grad student (back in school after 20 years) the group work drives me absolutely crazy. I'm so glad this is something people are talking about.

    1. It's just so stressful, right? It turns into a competition to see who can be louder and pushier.

  2. I thought Quiet was a really interesting book. Maybe because I fall on the introvert-side of the spectrum. I think everyone should read this book so we understand one another better. :)

    1. Agreed! I really like how Cain wasn't trash-talking extroverts, but instead she pointed out that both sides can really learn from each other.

  3. I really enjoyed Quiet too and thought the author covered a whole lot within the book.... I hadn't thought of delving in to parenting an extrovert as an introvert. I could have done with that too!!

    All Things Bookish – Jade Louise

    1. The children are so lovely, but so so loud!! :)

  4. I also enjoyed Quiet! I particularly liked her definition of an introvert as someone who loses energy from interacting with people, while an extrovert is energized by those interactions. That's very true of me and helped me understand why I still feel like an introvert even as I get better at speaking up in social settings and at public speaking.

    1. Me too! I was a theatre major, so I love performing and I don't get nervous in front of people. That being said, I definitely need quiet time to recharge afterwards.