Quiet. Sometimes I wonder what that is. Birds and bugs in a forest could drown out the sound of a falling tree, even if someone were there to hear it! Is that a plane overhead? Or a motorcycle? A leaky faucet? Or just the roar of silence in my ears? And in our library, cell phones buzz and spout music and alarms, often without anyone attempting to silence them. Friends and tutors chatter. We answer phones and give directions. Babies even laugh more annoyingly than they cry. And we discuss books and movies with a passion that sometimes needs to be shushed as much as anything else.
Perhaps that’s why Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, seemed like a good fit for our book club. Well, that and the number of best books of 2012 recommendations I read.
I decided to break our discussion group into three smaller groups, with six people each, because Susan Cain mentions that smaller groups are more productive than larger ones. This makes reporting on (and moderating) the discussion quite challenging! In addition, the novelty of the arrangement was off-putting to some members and this book is a new kind of non-fiction for us – informative and anecdotal rather than strictly historical or biographical.
Several members had not finished the book or had only read at it. One member hadn’t read it because it felt like a textbook. For another, it just didn’t hold her interest. Yet another had read it months ago and was enjoying it even more listening to it on audio. One felt that she understood her sound-sensitive grandson better. One was moved to form an action plan to present to her employer to improve working conditions in her office. Still another could not follow the logic. And yet another was so taken with the book that it seemed to rekindle her spirit.
At the end, I asked what had stood out. In review, each group mentioned Susan Cain’s discussion of a culture of character versus personality and how modern politics are plagued by extroverts whose personality reigns. In particular, one member passionately mentioned the rush to war for non-existent weapons of mass destruction—an example of extroverts rushing in where introverts would have waited. Many of us seemed to like the book and find it relevant, although some of us also wanted more solutions!
But that’s just an opinion, based on my observation. I obviously didn’t hear it all! Reading non-fiction reminds me how important accuracy in reporting can be. Susan Cain’s book seemed well researched. But it is not that difficult to find research to fit an opinion. One member mentioned that although the example of Steve Wozniak was inspiring as related, it did not tell the whole story.
My discussion journals never tell the whole story either. We bring with us not only our own life histories and unique perspectives to the discussion at hand, but also our understanding of our discussion group members after years and many meetings. A video couldn’t capture it all. But I hope these journals remind us why we met – and choose to continue . . .
- Other works mentioned:
- Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
- In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
- Mindset: the new psychology of success by Carol Dweck
- Outliers: the story of success by Malcolm Gladwell
- Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
- Twenty Miles From a Match by Sarah Olds