Two in the “popular non-fiction” genre to start the year off – both started last year, which was a bit untidy, but never mind. Both are autobiographical to an extent, one more than the other, and maybe both tap into modern concerns with not buying stuff and celebrating the non-neurotypical. Unfortunately, as we’ll see, I had slight issues with both of them, but these perhaps arose from my own expectations rather than any lack in the books themselves.
Scott Dannemiller – “The Year Without a Purchase: One Family’s Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting”
(e-book, kindly supplied by the publisher via NetGalley)
I am fairly parsimonious and not linked into a culture of buying things for the sake of it in the slightest, but I do enjoy books about not buying things for a year or living on small budgets, and have read quite a few over the years. So I was attracted by the title of this one on NetGalley, and made an error in doing so and not reading the description carefully enough, because I didn’t realise that it was written from a specifically Christian perspective until I started reading it. Then, it became quickly obvious, and indeed the author addresses the issue almost immediately, expecting people to be put off. So I refused to be – but if you’re not at all keen on religious stuff in books, you’re not going to be massively keen on this one.
So, it does revolve around themes of connecting with God – but also with family and loved ones and friends – and it’s peppered with relevant Bible quotations. Some of what the family do is necessarily connected deeply with prayer and spiritual connection. But it’s not a particularly preachy book – apart from exhorting us not to waste money on rubbish, which is pretty sensible whatever way you look at it, and it’s not over-serious, either. It’s honest and self-deprecating about the author’s failings, the family’s failures, problems with disciplining the children, etc., and is amusing at times.
There are lots of tips about negotiating money-free gifts (including a very moving birthday celebration), and sharing experiences, etc., which would appeal to anyone, and there’s a good emphasis on charity, both monetary and practical, which is nice to see and interesting to read about.
This book will suit … people looking to save themselves from overspending and the consumer culture, but who are tolerant of or actively interested in about reading on this topic from a religious / Christian perspective.
Susan Cain – “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking”
(21 January 2015)
This was hailed as ground-breaking when it came out, and it is a reasonably good book, although once again (sense a theme in this post?) I don’t think I’m the exact audience at which it is aimed. It would basically appeal most to people who have just discovered they’re introverted (true basic meaning: recharge their energy from being alone, rather than from being with other people, but expanded to mean quiet and some other stuff I’ll mention later) or are having a hard time accepting themselves as introverted and OK all the same. Now, I have lots of things about me that I dislike: I really hate being prosopagnosic / face-blind*, for example, and find that a right old pain, but I’ve never minded being an introvert or thought it made me somewhat less of a person than the extroverted, so I don’t really need this book to bolster me up, whereas the less content would I’m sure find it very comforting.
The other reason that this doesn’t really match me as a reader is that Cain conflates the introverted, the shy and the Highly Sensitive Person to a large (and admitted) extent. I’ve schooled myself out of being shy to a large degree, and having read about HSPs I am pretty sure I’m not one of them, so that means the book matches my own lived experience even less (but again makes it useful for that group of people). It’s good on the cultural and historical aspects of introversion and the current (Western) cult and adoration of extroversion, and has plenty to help the introvert who is thrown into the business etc. arena. In a way, it’s trying to do for introverts what Neuro Tribes does for those on the autistic spectrum, and it’s a laudable aim that is carried out well.
But it’s preaching to the choir here, and I was also a little irritated by the laissez-faire attitude to referencing, with the author admitting that she changes quotations without bothering to mark additions and deletions and that slightly annoying referencing system that does away with footnotes and lists scraps of sentences in the back.
*I’ve blogged about prosopagnosia in the business context here ; it does explain the basics, too.
This book will suit … Anyone who’s not happy about being an introvert or needs to find their place in the world and could do with some back-up; people who work with or are friends with introverts.
Currently reading – I have to say that the kind of person who attends a random town council meeting when he goes on holiday IN A DIFFERENT COUNTRY can be predicted to not write The Most Interesting Autobiography Ever. But I’m sticking with Ken Livingstone because there are diamonds among the fluff and I’m looking forward to the later sections!
Have you read either of these books? What do you do when you don’t L.O.V.E. a book that everyone else seems to rate – do you care?