When the first plume of steam bloomed and stained the sky at the dawn of the industrial revolution, everything changed for introverts. It was no longer who you were, it was who the knew; it didn't matter what you knew, or how much you were willing to learn, it became how you could sell what you knew. In Susan Cain's Quiet, this is where her research begins: decades of it that Mrs. Cain combed through to find herself, to find us: the readers. It's hard to not think like that, though, especially after finishing Quiet. “This is me. This book is me,” you will say.
One will also get the sense that everything in the book is common sense, but the science of common sense is revolutionary when you examine the Kagan studies, which show the differences between temperament and personality: temperament is inborn as opposed to personality, which is cultural. With all the information, statistics, case studies and names, Susan Cain successfully traces the germ of our sick culture: ourselves, and our idealized Western version of extroversion. Even as toes are stepped on and cultural monoliths are spit on, Mrs. Cain writes in an easy and reaffirming style. She is no iconoclast, though, even if as she examines the cult of personality, she offers the best kind of hope: finding out who you really are in a world that is run Tony Robbins and his anti-literary acolytes. But the difference between introversion and extroversion isn't intelligence, it's simply how we function: what we do and how we do it. No child or worker should be punished for how their brain works, and once a reader realizes that, there's no way to leave that information back in the book's pages. It's taken with you.
A question that I have dealt with from childhood wasn't answered, though. What would happen if introverts ran the world? When I briefly attended a faith-based private school for one year of elementary school, the students were expected to learn at their own pace, in their own private cubicles. Results were varied. Brilliant children read at middle school-levels, and some who could not spell if their short, little lives depended upon it. For me, I was learning boredom at my own pace and daydream at my own leisure. Even a chapter devoted to something like this would affect the book's cohesion, so this is not a criticism, it's just what I brought to the book as a reader: my own story, which is antithetical to America's one-size-fits-all, extroversion-focused education system.
Other than it being hard not to be hard on American culture, as one reads Quiet, it becomes impossible not to believe that if the world ran out of extroverts, all those left over would miss would be financial collapses and cocktail parties. With that realization, the subjects run a bit dry. And for good reason: about the middle section of the book, gears shift to the people who run the world—bankers and humans of that kind of tribe. Perhaps the most important topic in recent history is the Great Recession, but hedge funds, FUD, bankers, General Motors don't have that glow and glamour that studying children or talking about artists does. Then, Mrs. Cain discusses cultures and racial stereotypes—introverted Asian cultures amidst extroverted American germ cultures.
Finding yourself in a book is why we read, but it's rare that you yourself are studied in a book: what you think of as a soul, an intimate part of yourself, dissected in pages and explained by various neuroscientists and physiologists. Quiet offers more than a dozen studies and tests—quick moments that do not distract from the reading in the slightest. In fact, they aid in the process. Finding ones core, who they really are, is a definite goal of the book. Chances are, though, if you're reading a book titled Quiet, with the word introvert on the cover, you know who you are and what you are. Here's hoping, at least, since 1/3 to 1/2 of all of us are introverts.
Quiet's most salient theme is certainly family—family and chocolate: simple, private pleasures. Susan Cain's love for both children and communication will have a profound impact on any reader, mother, father, educator, or someone who thinks children, for them, are as far off an the next millennium. Along with aiding in an affirming future, it's comforting to honestly feel that being either and extrovert or an introvert is neither good or bad. Neither one is pro- or anti-social; a person is neither hindered or haunted by their introversion. By the book's end, there has been ample time to reflect and know how you're wired so you know where you're headed when your personality wills you somewhere. Finding your passion is what Mrs. Cain challenges the reader with, as if it's something no actualized person can be without. And it's true. Knowing yourself—as well as the other people who pollute or populate the world, and whittling their crass or careless words down to raw emotion: the catalyst of our lives, how we relate to our lovers, friends, children, and finally, to ourselves—is the book's endgame. Quiet teaches that the learning curve to understand people isn't too far around the bend, so we should stop trying to hold others back: keeping them from exploring themselves, even if its far away from the only world we know.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a holiday party to head off to, where I will eat enough to not be able to to talk to anybody, then drink enough to talk to everybody.