Quiet by Susan Cain

Just over a week ago I sat down on Christmas evening, exhausted and desperate to switch off after a lovely day spent around my family. I dived into the pile of presents, chocolates, cards and pine needles under the tree to find one of my favourite presents from the day. I melted into the sofa, wearing a new set of pyjamas, and with a surge of contentedness I opened my new book to its first page.

I soon realised that the very reason I craved a book at the end of Christmas day, and barely surfaced from its pages for the following week, could be attributed to the very subject of the book itself: introversion

Quiet is an all-encompassing guide to introversion – and I say guide because I will be holding onto it and referring back to it when I feel the need –  talking about everything from scientist research, to evolution, childhood, the workplace, public speaking and the difference in the introvert and extrovert ratio in Eastern and Western culture. 

It explains that introverts, who account for at least a third of us, prefer deeper conversations over small talk and need time to recharge between social situations. We tend to be more sensitive, good listeners, and more prone to anxiety and shyness.

Cain herself is an introvert, and I'd say she argues the case of the introvert very well, but it really isn’t a case to argue. If you’ve ever felt guilty for retreating home early from a social event, felt bad for not speaking up in a meeting, or ever worried about being different from those around you – you need to read this book.

At the risk of sounding dramatic, Quiet is life-changing for anyone who, like me, has doubted their social abilities and wondered why they seem to function differently. Many of my innate behaviours, preferences and tendencies, I now know, can be attributed to introversion. Almost as often as I turned the page I was nodding along as I read, thinking ‘yes, this is exactly how I am!’. Introversion can even explain sensitivity to caffeine, can you believe?

Most of my childhood memories revolve around my being introverted. From my habit of taking books with me everywhere I went, to being bullied and made to feel different from others, to wanting a career in writing. It dawned on me a while ago that I must be an introvert, but only after reading this book does everything feel like it’s fallen into place. But none of the information was unwelcome - I can't see a single downside to being an introvert, aside from the battle that comes with trying to fit in with extroverts. 

Unsurprisingly, the book has had a lot of good reviews, although there have also been a few criticisms. I read Jon Ronson’s review of Quiet, and he mentions the few parts, early on in the book, where Cain goes and does things, and then writers about them. He says that it’s a shame that this tails off after a while, giving way to more science-based content.

But I didn’t mind the amount of science. As much as I enjoyed reading about Cain’s adventures while writing the book, I think the balance between her personal experiences and objective information was spot-on.

It has also been criticised for its 'gratuitous sloganeering', with sentences such as: “The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting.” But I don't think this takes anything away from the book's authority. In fact, I think it makes Cain more endearing.

The book talks about the need for more of a balance between extroverts and introverts, and the way that some environments - such as schools and workplaces - are catered towards extroverts. She also talks of the bias in society, and how some extrovert parents try to squeeze the introvert out of their children, due to lack of understanding.

Quiet calls for societal changes, and the problems that introverts can face through childhood, at school or in the workplace - such as the relentless need for group work - will hopefully improve. While the individual reader may not be able to do much in a wider sense, he can change how he communicates his introversion. We may be the quieter type, but if we're going to raise our voices about anything, it should be to defend the way we are and speak up about what we need.

What I previously thought were flaws are actually great parts of my makeup – and this book has more than convinced me that introversion is something to be proud of. So next time I decline an ambitious social invitation with no eye contact and an implausible excuse, just humour me.


  1. I've been wanting to read this book for ages, and your post has made me want to read it even more! It's sounds like such a great book


    1. Thanks Gemma, well if you read it do let me know what you think of it!

  2. I read this book over a year ago and I loved it so much that I based my dissertation on it. I wrote a play called 'The Quiet Ones' and it was entirely inspired by Cain's 'Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.' I am so glad you reviewed this book because it is exceptional, and I want more and more people to read it and eventually have the negative stigma attached to introversion taken away completely.
    N xo

    1. Oh wow, really? That sounds really interesting! Yes I hope so too, but by the looks of it a lot of people have been talking about the book, so I'm hopeful things will change :)

  3. Yes yes yes yes yes yes. You know my thoughts! Lovely eloquent review. :)

  4. Jessica, what a wonderful post! You reviewed the book so well that I want to go out tomorrow and read it. You're so talented with your words and I have no doubt that one day you will get your dream of becoming a writer. I envy how well you do so. I did a test not so long ago which told me I was an introvert and so this will definitely be something I can learn from.

    P.S. How on earth did you stop biting your nails?! Please help! (I'm chomping currently)

    Laura xx

    1. Thank you Laura! Let me know what you think of it if you do go and buy it :) Haha I honestly just stopped one day - which is probably not what you want to hear! I tried everything, but then one day I just didn't want to bite them any more, so have hope! xxx