I first mentioned Susan Cain's book Quiet in this post, and even though I'd only watched her TED talk, I figured I was in for a pretty great ride. Quiet didn't disappoint, filled to the brim with interesting facts and statistics and stories about introverts and their quiet tendencies. It's one of those books I wound up reading aloud to Jordan, one I absolutely cannot help bringing up in conversation with friends and family. Cain is a delightful guide through page upon page of her in-depth research, and I don't think it's just because I found in her a kindred spirit (although I'm sure that's part of it). She did an excellent job of making even the most mundane of research fascinating, and I would read page through page, nodding, thinking, "So this is why I'm the way I am!" Even an extrovert, though, could enjoy this book, mostly because it's all about understanding each other and why we function the way we do. It's about compromise, about introverts stretching for their inner extrovert, about extroverts being patient and quiet and content with an introvert's more sensitive ways. Quiet gave me a lot to work on, and it also has made me intensely more aware of the way I behave and think, both private and publicly. I've always thought it was a bit odd that I enjoy public speaking, but prefer quiet nights at home to being out on the town (no matter how much I thought I could pretend otherwise). In fact, that's pretty typical, and there are a lot of people out there who are the same way. What a lovely, happy thought. Read Quiet, whether you're an introvert or not. It provides excellent insight into our personalities and what makes us all tick. I can't recommend it enough.
When I was a senior in high school, I took a freshman English course at the local community college. One of our assignments was to write a paper in the style of a favorite author. I chose Anna Quindlen. Her ability to switch between fiction and nonfiction astounds me; not every author has that gift, but Quindlen manages to write heart-wrenching novels and clever essays, and I love both equally. (Though her latest novel, Every Last One, remains one of the most awe-inducing books I've read recently... And I read it an entire summer ago.) Her latest, a memoir in the form of essays, was our book club choice for July, and I was thrilled. I just love her, the way she writes and puts things just how I would put them if I could write as well as she can. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake starts strong, but our book club agreed that by the end, it did begin to feel a little repetitive. Part of that redundancy could be due to the fact we're all in our 20s and 30s, and Quindlen's final chapters were about aging and coming to terms with our older selves. It's not something we can relate to just quite yet, so I think we were left feeling a little lonesome in those final chapters. Despite that, though, I was actually comforted by a lot of Quindlen's expositions on growing older, glad to find someone who sees the beauty and wisdom in age. Her earlier chapters were still my favorite, full of truths on feminism, marriage, and friendship. My favorite chapter was her one on "stuff"; it was so incredibly convicting without being preachy. Quindlen didn't disappoint (though this didn't read so much like an memoir as it did an essay collection), and I'd highly recommend this one. I'd love, too, to get the perspective of someone Quindlen's age; this book might be a fun choice for a mother/daughter read-along. (Those exist, right?)
The hype around Gone Girl somehow missed me until our July book club meeting, which happened to be at the local bookstore. My friends kept going on and on about it, so I was a sucker and bought the book without even reading the cover. (This is what bookstores do to me.) After my purchase, I realized I'd read Gillian Flynn's Dark Places (and hadn't really liked it; review here), so I became wary Gone Girl wouldn't really be for me. Instead, I was hooked. I bought it Monday night and finished it Wednesday. The story was full of twists and turns and powerful, convincing narration. It was dark and intense and suspenseful, to be sure, so know what you're getting yourself into. (I actually didn't sleep very well last Wednesday night.) If you can look past that, though, and if you're in the mood for a bit of a thriller anyway, this is the book for you. I tried to think of the last thing I read like it, but I couldn't. Beyond its suspenseful nature, it's really just an outstanding, imaginative story. Enjoy... and don't read it when you're home alone!