What are You Reading?

Are you reading anything interesting right now? I’m fortunate to be reading two very interesting and intriguing books.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talkingby Susan Cain

This impressive best-seller was on my “to read” list ever since it was released in January. Once I finally got my hands on Quiet, it certainly lived up to expectations. Cain carefully portrays the many advantages of introversion — the ability to focus deeply, think creatively, forge strong relationships, analyze risk, listen well and much more. Weaving research from neurology, psychology, sociology and personal interviews, Cain describes how introverts–who comprise one third to one half of the population–contribute to our world but, unfortunately, are often undervalued.

There are many fascinating aspects of Quiet, whether you’re an introvert, an extrovert or somewhere in the middle. I especially enjoyed learning about introversion’s connection to innovation and creativity in the business world. Often, brainstorming sessions with many people is considered the best way to develop new ideas, but research shows that this simply isn’t true. The ideas generated from these sessions generally come from the loudest voices. Introverts and extroverts work best in smaller groups, instead, where they have time to flesh out their ideas until they feel ready to present fully-formed concepts to the larger group. When businesses allow employees the solitude they need–days working from home, an enclosed office or quiet spaces for thinking–collaboration and productivity benefit greatly. Also, Cain explains why introverts tend to make better leaders for extroverted teams, and vice versa, even though American businesses tend to favor extroverts for all leadership roles.

Quiet is highly useful for all business writers who communicate to both introverts and extroverts, for those who work with introverts, and introverts who want to learn more about themselves. Cain passionately argues that we all need to be true to ourselves and pursue projects we’re passionate about with self-awareness. Writing, for example, is uniquely solitary work. For many introverts, this may come easily, while presenting the work to others will take extra preparation. Extroverts, on the other hand, may need to balance their writing work with energizing networking events and lunches with colleagues. With self-awareness, respect for others’ differences and confidence in your personal talents, your business will benefit from each others’ unique strengths and individuals will accomplish more.

As God Commands, by Niccolo Ammaniti

Gritty may be the first word that comes to mind when describing this novel to a friend. Ammaniti’s crime fiction is very popular in Europe, but As God Commands doesn’t follow the standard “who did it?” story arc. Instead, we know from the beginning that Rino, the unemployed Neo-Nazi father of adolescent Cristiano, will commit a crime in an attempt to provide for his friends and son.

The graphic violence and steely circumstances may be hard to handle at times, but the characters’ love for one another is depicted artistically. The cinematic plot torques each character to the absolute limit, until there’s seemingly no other option but impulsive aggression. There’s no doubt that a crime will happen, but the question of who will suffer makes this a true page-turner.

While reading this novel, I’m amazed by Ammaniti’s skill in crafting a perfectly paced and suspenseful story–and wonder how these elements could be better infused into business writing. Fiction writers practice pace and suspense diligently, while business writers tend to focus more on clarity. Speeches, presentations and articles, however, all need to be intriguing if we expect others to read them. Pace and suspense are vital to engaging writing, no matter the genre.

How about you? Have you read a thought-provoking book recently?

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