Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Quiet by Susan Cain

About the Book

Title: Quiet: The power of Introverts in a World that can't stop Talking
Author: Susan Cain
Publication: Penguin (3 January 2013)/Amazon Kindle
Summary: (Amazon) Our lives are driven by a fact that most of us can't name and don't understand. It defines who our friends and lovers are, which careers we choose, and whether we blush when we're embarrassed. That fact is whether we're an introvert or an extrovert. In Quiet, Susan Cain shows how the brain chemistry of introverts and extroverts differs, and how society misunderstands and undervalues introverts. She gives introverts the tools to better understand themselves and take full advantage of their strengths.

What I Think

I did not like this book. I'm not even sure I should be reviewing it, as I didn't finish it and have absolutely no intention of doing so. I feel I was misled into thinking this was a book based on scientific results, and although there are a number of studies used, I feel these were carefully chosen by the author to promote her stand point: introverts are better. An example of this is a quote by psychologist Jerry Miller, director of the Center for the Child and the Family at the University of Michigan. "The stereotype of the university professor is accurate for so many people on campus. They like to read; for them there's nothing more exciting than ideas. And some of this has to do with how they spent their time when they were growing up. If you spend a lot of time charging around, then you have less time for reading and learning. There's only so much time in your life."  

One thing I liked about this book was that it made me think about the way in which I teach and whether I'm catering to all learning types and styles. Am I taking into consideration that some people would just prefer to work alone? "Our schools should teach children the skills to work with others - cooperative learning can be effective when practiced well and in moderation - but also the time and training they need to deliberately practice on their own." (Cain) That in itself is a pertinent question when teaching in Asia, as broadly speaking many students prefer working alone. However, communicative learning has proved successful and is generally regarded highly within the EFL world.  

As adults we need to be able to communicate effectively with others. There are very few jobs in the world where you can work completely on your own. Even writers, who most probably write their books in the confines of their own company, seek help from other writers. Once their book is published they will often do talks to help promote their books, because as much as one writes for the joy of writing, one also writes to earn a living and therefore needs those books to sell. 

I don't want you to misunderstand me; I wanted to like this book, but I felt it was too black and white. Instead of it being about how we can learn from each other, draw from each other's strengths and make allowances for each other's weaknesses, it was a boxing match with introverts in one corner and extroverts in the other. 

About the Author

Susan Cain is the author of the Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can't Stop Talking, which has been translated into more than 30 languages. Since her 2012 TED talk was posted online it has been viewed over three million times. Her writing on introversion and shyness has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, Oprah magazine and Psychology Today. Cain has spoken at the Royal Society of Arts, Microsoft and Google, and has appeared on BBC Radio 4, BBC Breakfast, CBS and NPR. Her work has been featured on the cover of Time, in the Daily Mail, the FT, the Atlantic, GQ, Grazia, the New Yorker, Wired, Fast Company, Fortune, Forbes, USA Today, the Washington Post, CNN and

She is an honours graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School. She lives in the Hudson River Valley with her husband and two sons.


  1. I quite enjoyed this book. Susan Cain goes into pretty extensive detail in the second half of the book about how to "learn from each other, draw from each other's strengths and make allowances for each other's weaknesses." I think she raises valid points about how work environments, specifically in the Western context, are often structured to allow extroverts to thrive at the expense of people who might be more productive in a different environment. She does offer concrete suggestions for how to structure offices for both collaboration and independent productivity.

    I agree that communicative learning is essential in the EFL world (I remember how much of a failure it was when I tried to learn Spanish from a computer program). However, group projects certainly aren't the most effective way to teach every subject to every student.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Shannon. Maybe I should have persevered and then I would have felt like I got out of the book what I was expecting/wanted. You're right about the typical office environment being mainly focused on the interests of the extroverts and it was an interesting comment she made about open plan offices and how people's work spaces have shrunk. I am certainly trying to think of ways in my teaching that allows for people who don't always want to work in a group.

  3. I loved this book too. I don't usually say things like this, but maybe you should give it another try, because Cain's point is most definitely not that introverts are better -- only that extroverts are not better either. It's interesting you felt it was too black and white, because other negative reviews I've read claimed it was too wishy washy :-). Cain does spend some time at the beginning trying to show extroverts what the world's like for introverts -- maybe that got too much? I'm not sure where you stopped reading.

    1. Hi Katherine,
      Thanks for your comment. It's always interesting to hear other people's points of view and you're now the second person (in as many hours!) that tells me this book is worth finishing. I got about half way through and just couldn't read any more. I discussed it at length with my book club members, but only one person had actually finished it. Maybe there's a lesson here: finish the book! I might be tempted to give it another try in a couple of months, but on the other hand: life's too short to read books you don't like! ;)

  4. the book sounds interesting. i do think though western society definitely makes an extrovert sound like a good thing and introvert a not so good thing. i've got lots of books i wanna read, but will try to get around to this one. ~michelle

    1. Yes, that's very true and this is highlighted in the book. Also, there are comparisons between America and Asia, which you might also find interesting having lived in Asia for a number of years.


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