Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Last month, I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, a non-fiction book about how introversion is misunderstood and undervalued in our society that glorifies being social and outgoing.

Summary

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingIt’s estimated that a third to half of people are introverts. Introverts’ energy gets drained when they spend too much time with other people; extroverts’ energy gets drained when they spend too much time alone. Introverts are quiet, thoughtful listeners who prefer solitude; extroverts are talkative, energetic socialites. Contrary to popular belief, introverts aren’t necessarily shy, though some are.

Cain uses anecdotes and scientific studies to show that we are really limiting our potential by overlooking introverts.

Review

This will probably come as no surprise to those who know me — I’m an introvert. I would much rather stay at home with a book than go out partying with a group of people. There is a personality assessment mentioned in the book called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). I’ve taken tests for it in the past and I definitely fall into the ISTJ type, which is described as:

Responsible, sincere, analytical, reserved, realistic, systematic. Hardworking and trustworthy with sound practical judgement.

ISTJs are faithful, logical, organized, sensible, and earnest traditionalists who enjoy keeping their lives and environments well-regulated. Typically reserved and serious individuals, they earn success through their thoroughness and extraordinary dependability.

In general, ISTJs are capable, logical, reasonable, and effective individuals with a deeply driven desire to promote security and peaceful living.

If you’re interested to find out your MBTI personality type, there are several tests online. The tests I found weren’t super great, so I suggest combining the results of a few tests with descriptions of each of the personality types (there are 16 types).

Anyway, back to the book.

Quiet isn’t about how introversion is better than extroversion (or vice-versa). Rather, Cain writes about how there is no “best” personality type and how we need to make sure we aren’t ignoring the needs and ideas of one group just because they’re less vocal, pushy, etc. Introversion isn’t something that needs to be “cured” and extroversion probably shouldn’t be so idealized. Both groups have their strengths and both groups are valuable in the workplace, school, family, and society in general.

Overall, I liked the book and I thought it did a great job illustrating introversion and its importance. I personally didn’t find it very enlightening (it was more an affirmation of things I already know), but it was thought-provoking and I found myself relating to a lot of the things Cain wrote about. If you’re an introvert or if you’re just looking to understand introversion better, I’d recommend reading it.

TED Talk

Susan Cain gave a TED Talk in 2012 called The Power of Introverts, which is definitely worth watching and it gives you a good idea of what to expect from the book. The video is below:

Flowers for Algernon

I picked up Flowers for Algernon at a book sale in the fall and after seeing a Reddit post about it last month, I decided to bump it to the front of my queue.

Flowers for AlgernonSummary

Charlie Gordon, a 37-year-old man with an IQ of 68, takes classes at the Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults to better himself. When Charlie is chosen to be the test subject for a surgery that could drastically improve his mental performance, he’s ecstatic because he’s wanted to be smart his entire life.

Within a few months of the operation, Charlie’s IQ nearly triples. The college students and professors he so admired now seem amateurish and ignorant. While he has grown intellectually, though, Charlie is still lagging behind emotionally, making relationships difficult.

I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.

When Algernon, the mouse who got the surgery before Charlie, starts acting erratically, Charlie and his researchers worry about what will happen to Charlie.

Review

Warning: My review contains spoilers!

Who knew a missing apostrophe could be so heart-breaking?

Flowers for Algernon is told through a series of progress reports written by Charlie. His first several reports are full of misspellings and grammatical errors. As he grows intellectually, there are fewer and fewer errors and then none. Even though I knew what was coming at the end of the book, it was still so sad to see that first missing apostrophe. 🙁

It was painful to see Charlie break out in anger over his mental deterioration, because he knew what was happening and although he was trying, there wasn’t anything he could do to prevent it. My grandfather has Alzheimer’s and I couldn’t help but think about him when I read that part.

Although it’s tragic, I highly recommend Flowers for Algernon. If reading isn’t really your thing, there is a short story version that some people recommend even more than the novel. I haven’t read the short story, so I can’t say which I prefer. Either way, go forth and read it!