Hats off to the cover designer of my edition of Susan Cain's Quiet - nothing could have better reflected the contents of the novel in such a clean, minimalist way and set the tone for the issues to be explored. It's simple, it's unobtrusive but, in a sea of colourful covers and loud fonts in the bookstore, hers stands out to those who know what to look for.
Quiet is one of those rare books that manages to humanise scientific research and make the concepts accessible, while still retaining its authority as an academic-based book. Like 'Laura', in the first story, Cain writes with the understated authority of someone who has definitely done the research, garnished with some self-help advice that manages to not be condescending or simplistic. And, like 'Laura', her voice is approachable and light, but also extremely thorough and persuasive.
Psychology and personality typing is a pet interest of mine so I had briefly come across a lot of the analysis about how introverts think, but I really liked how Cain applied those theories to relevant social events, from the Wall St disaster of 2008, to Apple and to religions. Being more introspective, I think many introverts have contemplated the issues that Cain addresses - but she is invaluable at articulating precisely what it is that, for example, makes it hard to complete a project or annoys us about another person. Definitely a book of multiple lightbulb moments when things suddenly just click and fall into place. I only wish there was an equivalent edition for extroverts, explaining precisely the way they think.
There were also a few new ideas - high sensitivity, the way spaces are designed to maximise extrovert strengths, the idea that some people need to believe in a goal or cause to find motivation - that were very relevant to me, personally. Alison, Jillian and 'Laura's' journey spoke to me in particular, as a current law student struggling to picture myself in the profession. The writing flows well from one category to the next, giving a nuanced view of each sociological, biological or cultural topic.
I didn't stop to take notes like I did with Niall Ferguson's Civilisation but that was mostly because reading the book was much easier due to the more narrative-like anecdotal stories that doubled as examples of concepts and sped up the pace of the book. Cain's examples range from Rosa Parks and Gandhi to regular people she met while on a motivational conference and there's a certain comfort to be drawn from how introverts can span the entire social spectrum and even in the most unlikely of places - like Wall St bankers or Harvard Business School students.
A running theme in the book is the idea of caring for and acknowledging the inner self and her book actively asks questions that make you really think about how in-touch you are with your introverted side and needs. I think Cain really balances the idea of staying true to your inner introvert but acknowledging that there are times where you need to draw on the powers of extroversion and that excessive introversion is equally damaging.
The idea is that being introverted is not wrong or an obstacle, but a unique strength that one should learn to work with and balance - and Cain really shows you this in a thoughtful, unassuming but powerful way. A quietly confident, 'You can do it'.
A definite recommendation for introverts and extroverts alike.