Sunday, April 19, 2015

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking -- Susan Cain ------------------- 4 Stars

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking 
has been a book on my list to read for a while.  I've heard quite good things about it, though it's taken a while to get around to checking it out.  What a truly interesting and fascinating read about a subject that effects nearly every person each day.

This book does its best to explain everything there is to do with the idea of introverts, and by association, extroverts.  The premise, as you can probably glean from the title, is about how underrated and actually quite important and powerful introverts are in our society.

In the past few years, I have done a lot to better understand who I am as a person.  I have taken Myers-Briggs test, Predictive Indexes, and other tests to better understand my strengths and weaknesses and needs.  To that end, introversion is an important part in understanding people's personalities.  (Interestingly, I fall pretty much in the middle between extroversion and introversion which they call 'ambivert').  As such, I was really intrigued in this book.  First, it's a really easy ready.  Cain has a great style that is very comfortable and easy to read but is still very informative.  Second, the book covers a ton of ground.  To begin with, I think her introduction framing the importance of better understanding introverts while she argues how much extroverts are valued in our American society is really quite neat.  After, she moves through all kinds of information covering history, psychology, sociology, etc.  Third, the book finishes with some really useful and practical information about how to better approach people and even yourself depending upon the type of personality you have.  Honestly, it's hard to read the book and not walk away with practical, legitimate actions to better improve relationships.  While the book reads like a typical Gladwell text (overarching theme, good anecdotes, nice writing style, etc.), unlike Gladwell, there are actual takeaways that can make a real difference.

It's hard to poke any real holes in the overall book.  It's really a pretty enjoyable read. I guess the reason it did not get 4.5 or 5 stars it that it's still a one note type of book.  Don't get me wrong, the argument about the undervalued nature of introversion is pretty awesome, but it still is a bit slow at times.  Additionally, it's a bit repetitive.  While I think Cain makes some superb arguments to support her viewpoints, I bought in pretty early so a lot of the later chapters just seemed like a lot of icing.

In general, I think this book would be enjoyed by nearly everyone and nearly every person could take away something from it.  If you haven't spent a lot of time looking at or learning more about your own personality or people around you, I think this book could have even more benefit.  When you think about it, finding ways to communicate and have better relationships with people is paramount and this book actually provides a pretty good blueprint both for how to do it and why it's so important to do so. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling -- David Shoemaker ---------------- 3.5 Stars

I have a confession: I loved watching wrestling growing up.  To be clear, this is not legit, Greco-Roman real wrestling; this is WWF fake wrastlin'.  So, when I saw a highly rated book about the history of wrestling titled The Squared Circle, I figured I should give it a try.  Boy was I happy I did; the nostalgia oozed from the pages.

When I was young I was super into watching WWF.  It had just started to hit it big culturally and a guy named Hulk Hogan had just come into the national conversation.  While only a little guy, I got into for probably a decade starting in the mid-80s and had action figures, championship belts, and even wrestling bed sheets.  This book was a real fun read.  I probably remembered about 2/3rds of it and the other 1/3rd (either older stuff or some of the newer people) was pretty interesting to me.

The book has a pretty fun set up.  Basically, Shoemaker goes through the various eras from the start of wrestling in America nearly 100 years ago to today.  While going through, he does 4-5 page biographies of about 30 wrestlers.  I didn't realize until the end that they were all dead (a completely noteworthy and sad part of the overall wrestling narrative).  In the arc of the book, I truly enjoyed the middle 2/3rds as that was the era, and wrestlers, I remember quite well.  Interestingly, the author avoids many of the major stars (though many are represented) and, instead, emphasizes some less popular wrestlers that stood out for some specific reason.  Again, really quite interesting.

Drawbacks?  Sure, there were some.  I thought there was too much on the beginning of the sport. Nearly all those wrestlers are unknown and the sport was so different then.  I also didn't like how the book didn't include better visuals.  While there was a black and white photo over each wrestler covered, that was it.  If there was ever a book that would have been improved by a giant, color insert in the middle, it was this one.  While I appreciate that the author wanted to make it clear that 'kayfabe' is an integral part of wrestling (kayfabe is the rule that wrestlers always stay in character but occasionally gets broken), there was a lot of emphasis about how obvious it is to everyone that wrestling is fake and that's okay and actually a very important part of the overall sport.

Overall, this is a pretty enjoyable book if you enjoy wrestling.  If you are like me and grew up watching guys like Macho Man, Hogan, Jake the Snake, and Andre the Giant, take a read through this book.  While you may find yourself flipping through some of the early stuff, you also might find yourself pulling up old YouTube clips of matches from two decades ago.  Certainly this is not as good as a time machine, this book still did a pretty great job of bringing up the memories in my head.  Hopefully, it does for you as well!