Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Book Reviews: 'Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking' by Susan Cain and 'The Virgin Suicides' by Jeffrey Eugenides

1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
This book was really interesting to read. As an introvert and a sensitive person, it's nice to read a book pointing out the power that people like us have in a world and a culture that is built for extroverts. I don't usually read non-fiction books (other than memoirs or real-life stories), but I was really intrigued by Cain's work on introversion. If you aren't an introvert, you will probably never know what we go through to behave in a way that is socially acceptable and desired by employers. If you know what I'm talking about, I definitely recommend reading Quiet. It brings about many insights surrounding introversion and how we're put down and ultimately undervalued in Western culture. She also shines light on the connection between sensitive people and introversion (70% of sensitive people are introverts, and Cain believes that the other 30% aren't complete extroverts), as well as the link between introversion/extroversion and nature vs. nurture, something I'd always wondered about before reading this book. My only complaint was that there were times where Cain went into a little too much detail. There were chapters where she conducted extensive research on what she calls the "Extrovert Ideal" (which is her term for the idealism in our society that extroversion is the more desirable personality/temperament), and it started to bore me after awhile. Not that those chapters weren't interesting, but after awhile they really dragged on and I felt myself thinking, "Okay, we get it. We don't need anymore examples. Next topic, please." But, other than those moments, Quiet is a really important read for anyone, whether you're an introvert or an extrovert. 4/5 stars.

2. The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides:
This book was both confusing and disappointing. The Virgin Suicides came highly recommended by several people, as well as receiving a great deal of acclaim over the years. What drew me to it was not only the recommendations but the fact that the concept sounded really original and interesting. The book follows the story of the teenage Lisbon sisters, who each commit suicide within a short time of each other. The concept remains interesting and original, but the writing style is what kills it all. The story is told from the perspective of the grown boys who lived in the same neighborhood as the infamous Lisbon girls, all of whom were enthralled by their mysterious ways. It just reads like an extended magazine article or something and it's SO TEDIOUS. It also limits the extent to which we can know details about the characters. I feel like I could have gotten into this story so much more if it was told a different way. If I had heard the perspective from these annoying (and often ignorant) neighborhood boys as well as the perspective of the Lisbon girls or even their parents (who are very interesting yet extremely underdeveloped characters), I know I could have enjoyed this book more. I get that it's supposed to be some extended literary metaphor for the harsh reality that is American suburban life (especially in the 1970s, when the story is set), but that didn't really do anything for me. The Virgin Suicides also has conflicting views of the morality surrounding suicide; it starts off with an intriguing catalyst surrounding one taking their own life, but the fact that the story is told from the perspective of people who weren't the ones who chose to end their life, how can we really trust what they say? They weren't the ones who chose to take such measures, so does what they say really count for much? This is why it would have been a much more interesting story if it was told, at least in part, from the perspective of the Lisbon girls themselves. But it's just so tedious to read the way it's told and leaves so much unsaid, unknown and untold. 2/5 stars.

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