Author: Susan Cain
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Did you know that somewhere between one-third and one-half of the people in this world are introverts? Sure doesn’t seem like it most times. In fact, a lot of the time, it seems like if you’re not talking all the time and involved in all sorts of social activities, there’s something wrong with you. But what if there’s more to the quiet people than meets the eye? If there are things hidden inside that the extroverts of the world would do well to take the time to listen to?
I’m usually not really into non-fiction very much, but I really enjoyed reading Quiet. As someone who is constantly being told to speak up, to be more aggressive, to be more involved, I feel the messages of this book very personally. It does a great job of affirming introverts without excusing them from the real world–because let’s face it, it’s probably impossible to just hide away somewhere for the rest of your life. At the same time, this book provides a powerful message for extroverts, showing a bit of what’s going on inside quiet people, the different things they need, and the unexpected insights that introverts can have. The author does a good job of compiling lots of different research and drawing logical conclusions from both that and her own experience, while at the same time presenting the material in a very readable, approachable manner. One of the things I most appreciated was the practical recommendations Cain gave for handling life as an introvert–nothing groundbreaking perhaps, but very practical things that you might not think of normally. I would recommend Quiet especially for introverts who need encouragement and (perhaps even more so) for extroverts.
Author: Neal Shusterman
My rating: 5 of 5
“Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench. Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior. Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images. Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head. Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny. Caden Bosch is torn.” (I’m using the Goodreads summary here, because it’s perfect and I don’t want to change anything.)
I was absolutely blown away by Challenger Deep. I mean, I always enjoy Neal Shusterman’s writing, but this particular volume is something special even for him. It clearly comes from a very personal place, as he mentions in the afterword that a lot of the ideas come from his son’s own experiences with mental illness. And that personal connection really shows, inviting the reader into the world as it appears to someone struggling with a brain chemistry that isn’t working normally. I still can’t say I understand . . . I don’t think anyone who hasn’t actually lived there can really understand. But I can definitely be more accepting and willing to try to understand for having read this book (which is really helpful since I’m dealing with mental illness of a different sort with my Grandfather who has Alzheimer’s). I loved the was Shusterman wove together Caden’s “real world” experiences with life on the “ship” on its way to Challenger Deep. As you go, it becomes more and more clear that the “ship” is just another way in which he sees the world, you begin to see parallels between actually people, events, and choices. But because it’s presented in that way, you get this additional, interesting story that not only increases the reader’s understanding but is also really engaging in its own surreal sort of way. The writing, in Caden’s first-person view, is brilliant and easy to read in a strange, surreal way, even though the events are constantly flipping between “realities” sometimes even within the chapter. A nice plus also is that the chapters are really short, so it feels like a quicker read–and it’s easy to read a chapter or two between other things, even if you don’t have much time. I think I would highly recommend Challenger Deep to anyone, and particularly to anyone who has someone in their life who is dealing with mental illness.
Author: Oliver Sacks
Over the course of many years of clinical practice in neuropsychology, Dr. Sacks has seen the inexplicable, the baffling, and the unusual many, many times. In this book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Dr. Sacks provides a varied collection of cases of interest that he has seen–everything from a woman who lost her sense of proprioception to a man who temporarily gained the ability to perceive the world as a dog would! And of course, “the man who mistook his wife for a hat”–incredible story that.
I don’t usually read much nonfiction, but this book (recommended by my brother who loves Dr. Sacks’ writing) is a definite exception. The case studies are stories. True stories, yes, and more incredible for that. Dr. Sacks’ writing is clear and lucid and simple enough to be easy to read–not “doctor-ese” at all. More impressive to me though is the humanity, respect, dignity, and compassion that permeates his tales; it’s clear that he sees the individuals he’s writing about as people not just as cases or medical charts. Indeed, the insight he draws from his interactions with these people, not only about themselves but about humanity in general, is truly illuminating. I would give The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat my high recommendations, and not only for those who like medical books, but for anyone with an interest in Story and in what makes people tick. Truly fascinating.
Companion to: xxxHOLiC by CLAMP
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Anyone who has read CLAMP’s manga xxxHOLiC will be familiar with high-school student Kimihiro Watanuki (who sees spirits) and his boss, the amazing (read childish, demanding, and unpredictable) Yuuko Ichihara. (If you haven’t read the manga, please do; it’s an incredible story.) In ANOTHERHOLiC, author NisiOisiN tells three original stories involving these two. I found it fascinating to see these characters in a light novel format, since I’m accustomed to only seeing them in the manga. NisiOisiN does very well at keeping the characters true to CLAMP’s original, although it’s pretty obvious that these stories are set early in the xxxHOLiC timeline, as the character and relationship development haven’t progressed particularly far yet.
I found it interesting that, while a majority of the cases Watanuki and Yuuko-san end up dealing with in the manga involve the paranormal, all three of these stories are primarily involving human issues. Although these human issues may initially appear to be the work of spirits, they are in actuality more studies in psychology and human nature, which Yuuko cleverly deciphers. These are really more detective stories than paranormal stories, which is consistent with NisiOisiN’s other work that I’ve read. One other feature that I appreciated in the English edition is the excellent work of the translator in providing explanatory notes; the text is infiltrated with references to Japanese culture, language, and literature. This story will be enjoyed most by those already familiar with the manga, but really, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good mystery in short story format.