Welcome to the month of mediocre! I don't know if it's just me, or the books, or if it's both, but everything I read this month was just kind of...meh. I mean, none of these books are terrible - don't think that. I think they're worth reading once. But none of them really lived up to my expectations (or to the reviews I'd read about them). But you should judge for yourself.
Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you thought in the comments!
Last October, I had the privilege to read and review The Yellow Envelope, by Kim Dinan. She hooked me with this phrase:
It was a truth that the most essential part of me had always known. I needed to see the world. I needed to write. I didn't have to know why. Wanting it was enough.
Does this ring any bells? Sound like anyone you might, just might, know?
Oh, and to really ratchet up the creepy factor, she too has a husband named Brian. Look, I can't make this stuff up.
Whew. Oh, hai, last day of November. We made it, y'all, we made it. Fall, you are wearing me out - but sometimes in a good way. Because election hoopla is the world's best excuse to turn off the TV and read, and two eight-hour flights (one of which stretched into a 24-hour travel day...ugh), plus a lot of lazy days in French cafes, offers a lot of time to attack the to-read list. So here's what I've got for you this month as we wrap up November. Enjoy!
Several years ago, my boss's wife recommended a book to me. Because THIS is my to-read list, it's taken a while to work my way through it to that book, but I finally bought it on Amazon and set about the serious business of reading it. And now I know.
Now I know:
Because I am an introvert, that's why. And you might be, too. Not only are we completely, 100% normal, we are necessary. For anyone that struggles with being a "quiet" person in a society that rewards those who talk the loudest (not necessarily the smartest), pick up Susan Cain's book, "Quiet" and give it a go. It's a fascinating study of what introverts contribute to society, and how that society has unfortunately shifted to extroversion. ANYone who is interested in psychology will find this a good read. However, for me, it read like a psychological evaluation of myself that I didn't even know I needed.
Below are some of Cain's quotes that I found incredibly enlightening and inspiring (her take on religion had never crossed my mind, but the entire time I read the religion section, I was thinking, "OMG YES"):
" 'I worry that there are people who are put in positions of authority because they're good talkers, but they don't have good ideas,' he said. 'It's so easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent. Someone seems like a good presenter, easy to get along with, and those traits are rewarded. Well, why is that? They're valuable traits, but we put too much of a premium on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking.' " - page 52
On introverts and religion:
" ' The evangelical culture ties together faithfulness with extroversion,' McHugh explained. 'The emphasis is on community, on participating in more and more programs and events, on meeting more and more people. It's a constant tension for many introverts that they're not living that out. And in a religious world, there's more at stake when you feel that tension. It doesn't feel like, "I'm not doing as well as I'd like." It feels like "God isn't pleased with me." ' " - page 66
"Events like this don't give me the sense of oneness others seem to enjoy; it's always been private occasions that make me feel connected to the joys and sorrows of the world, often in the form of communication with writers and musicians I'll never meet in person. Proust called these moments of unity between writer and reader 'that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.' His use of religious language was surely no accident." - page 69
On introverts and careers:
In regards to the 2008 financial crisis: " 'People with certain personality types got control of capital and institutions and power,' Curry told me. 'And people who are congenitally more cautious and introverted and statistical in their thinking became discredited and pushed aside.' " - page 164
"If you leave them to their own devices, the introverts tend to sit around wondering about things, imagining things, recalling events from their past, and making plans for the future. The extroverts are more likely to focus on what's happening around them. It's as if extroverts are seeing 'What is' while their introverted peers are asking 'What if?' " - page 168
"It's not always so easy, it turns out, to identify your core personal projects. And it can be especially tough for introverts, who have spent so much of their lives conforming to extroverted norms that by the time they choose a career, or a calling, it feels perfectly normal to ignore their own preferences. They may be uncomfortable in law school or nursing school or in the marketing department, but no more so than they were back in middle school or summer camp." - page 217
On introverts and friendship:
" 'I could literally go years without having any friends except for my wife and kids,' he says. 'Look at you and me. You're one of my best friends, and how many times do we actually talk - when you call me! I don't like socializing...So notwithstanding whatever you might see in my public persona, I am an introvert.' " - page 211
"It can be hard for extroverts to understand how badly introverts need to recharge at the end of a busy day. We all empathize with a sleep-deprived mate who comes home from work too tired to talk, but it's harder to grasp that social overstimulation can be just as exhausting." - page 228
"The introverts assigned to the cooperative game rated all players - not just their competitors, but also their teammates - more positively than the introverts who played the competitive game. The extroverts did just the opposite: they rated all players more positively when they played the competitive version of the game. These findings suggest something very important: introverts like people they meet in friendly contexts; extroverts prefer those they compete with." - page 231
Introverts and children:
"We tend to forget that there's nothing sacrosanct about learning in large group classrooms, and that we organize students this way not because it's the best way to learn but because it's cost-efficient...If your child prefers to work autonomously and socialize one-on-one, there's nothing wrong with her; she just happens not to fit the prevailing model. The purpose of school should be to prepare kids for the rest of their lives, but too often what kids need to be prepared for is surviving the school day itself." - page 253, and CAN I GET AN AMEN?!
Read this book. And the next time you're thinking of hiring the gregarious job candidate versus the thoughtful one, or you're drawn to the guy/girl who's the life of the party versus the quiet listener, or when you're trying to push your teenage daughter to go out after a football game when she'd rather be at home with a book (Mom, I'm looking at you!), stop a minute. Think of what those introverts could bring to you and to society in general.
You know, JK Rowling is a famous introvert. Now, stop and try, just for a minute, to imagine the world without Harry Potter. I know you don't want to (I don't, either. I can't EVEN. THE HORROR). But just try.
Horrifying, isn't it? That should be motivation enough: nurture your introverts. Empower them. Introverts unite!
...alone. When we feel like it. And only for about 30 minutes. Then let's all just go home :)
Earlier this week, I finished re-reading Pride and Prejudice (this pretty edition here). I also received my copy of Lauren Willig’s newest book and started re-reading the first book in Willig’s Pink Carnation series as a refresher. The books are set in almost the exact same time period (Jane Austen even makes a cameo appearance in one of Willig’s books). However, the writing styles could not be more different, and to be perfectly honest, I think I know which I prefer – and it isn’t the old stuff.
I would say I’ve spent at least half my life with my head buried in some book or other. I’ve read a LOT. But classics…they tend to lose me. I try to make myself read them because I know as a writer it’s important. But even if the story line is good, I get bogged down and lost in the writing style. It took me 8 months last year to finish The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Some people think the old-time language and wording are what make these classic stories so wonderful. I don’t know about that. It’s hard to connect with the characters because they seem so remote, lost in a barrier of formal speech and weirdly placed commas. Maybe in 200 years language will have evolved so much that people think today’s books are difficult and miserable to get through. Maybe high school juniors will be moaning about having to read The Help. At the rate teenagers are going with the constant text-speak, it really wouldn’t surprise me. But I digress.
I am not bashing the classics. There are some that are very dear to me. I LOVE Gone With the Wind. To Kill a Mockingbird was my favorite book I had to read in high school. I adore Shakespeare. And I will undoubtedly re-read Pride and Prejudice many, many times.
Literary classics do have their place in history (and even on my bookshelves). But the older I get, the less free time I seem to have for reading. Those precious moments when I can fully devote myself to a book are fewer and further between. So when it comes down to picking a book to get lost in, to immerse myself in someone else’s story, I want it to be amazing – and contemporary. So just hand over The Help, and nobody gets hurt.