Quiet – Susan Cain. This was recommended to me by a fellow Rebel. It was interesting but I felt it was a bit over-simplified in place. Cain’s key theme is that we live in a society that overvalues extrovert behaviours and is increasingly built to support extroverts rather than introverts. I do broadly agree with her on this and think that the world would probably be a better place with more balance. However, I thought that her descriptions of the two ends of the spectrum were cartoonishly one-dimensional. In her attempt to sell the benefits of introversion, Cain almost made extroverts sound brash and dumb. She also seemed to stray into dangerous territory, ascribing traits seen ‘on average’ to individuals apparently forgetting that individuals are just that, individuals. I self-identify as an introvert, particularly in line with one of Jung’s original definitions that (and I’m paraphrasing) that introverts recharge their batteries when spending time on their own, while spending time with others can be enjoyable but ultimately draining. I definitely show some of Cain’s introvert tendencies but some of the behaviours she attributes to introversion are just not me and I can’t be the only one who sits somewhere along this spectrum, thanks to a complicate interplay of nature and nurture. Still, it was a thought-provoking and interesting read that had me asking a lot of questions about my own behaviours and preferences.
City of Lies – Ramita Navai. This was this month’s book club read and proved to be a fascinating insight into the lives of modern day Tehranians. Ramita returned to her native Iran after growing up in London and, after having her journalist credentials temporarily suspended, spent time getting to know some of the residents of south Tehran. She tells the stories of all sorts of people, from addicts to prostitutes to hard men to sons of executed dissenters, all of whom are connected by the long road, Vali Asr, that runs through the city. I love these kind of biographical stories that allow you to get under the skin of the new stories; it’s too easy to just focus on the news stories of politics and clerics and forget the ordinary people getting on with their lives and facing many of the same issues – especially heartbreak – faced by the world over. Ramita does a wonderful job of bringing these characters and their voices to life on each page. I can’t pretend to be an expert now but I do feel that I have much better insight into ‘normal’ life in Tehran. Ramita joined us for the book club meet up to talk about and answer questions on the book. Hearing her passion for Iran and for giving a voice to those whose stories are not normally heard was really moving.
The Martian – Andy Weir. I picked this one up in a hostel, having really enjoyed the film. The book is an excellent read, especially as it’s Weir’s first novel, telling the story of an astronaut abandoned on Mars after an accident leads his crew to believe he is dead. It’s a fast-paced and thrilling story of human survival and ingenuity; Weir has a real talent for making the science understandable and interesting, as well for capturing Mark Watney’s smart-arse character. I demolished this in around four hours, I enjoyed it so much.
Wilful Blindness – Margaret Heffernan. Another book that made it’s way onto my reading list, courtesy of the Rebel Book Club and one that I found really interesting. Heffernan describes and analyses the phenomenon of wilful blindness – how powerful and intelligent people deliberately set aside crucial facts and turn a blind eye to fatal errors and frauds – with a rich commentary of examples, case studies, interviews and scientific research. She had me really questioning some of my own beliefs and what I might be blind to in my own life. As interesting as the book is, Heffernan’s thesis about the rarity of whistle-blowers was a little depressing and it wasn’t entirely clear how people or organisations can prevent these kinds of blindness.
Plus another couple of old Lee Child novels…just when I needed some light entertainment!
So I read all of these in the first couple of weeks of the month, whilst I was still on holiday, and have really struggled to read anything since! I manage to squeeze in a couple of pages of Delusions of Gender (yep, still reading that) but haven’t made a lot of time for reading, to be honest. Having read more than a dozen books in the last two months, maybe my brain just needs a little break! Still, May’s plan is: to finish Delusions of Gender, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism (for book club), and at least one other of the little collection currently by my bed! Best get started…
May your life be filled with light and love xxx