Sunday, February 3, 2013

A brief study in introversion

This post is going to be a little different. Rather than a full review of a single book, I'm going to suggest several books on a theme.

I am an introvert; when I take the "are you an introvert" tests, I invariably score as high in the "I" category as it is possible to do. This can present some challenges.

As a Christian of the Protestant persuasion, I can find my introversion especially difficult to square with the culture of my church family. These books have given me insight and encouragement.

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

This book was published last year and has made quite a splash in readerly circles (not a huge surprise; introverts tend to be readers). This is a secular book and looks at introversion in education, business, family, and church circles. This is the book that I most highly recommend reading; any introvert will find much here to ponder, and any extrovert who explores it will learn a lot about the less-gregarious half of the population.

Stars: 5


Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam McHugh

McHugh is actually interviewed and featured in Cain's book; reading that book is how I learned about this one. McHugh is a Presbyterian pastor and shares many of his own struggles in that role. This book has struck a chord with many evangelical Christians, including me. The latter portion of the book focuses on introverts who are called to professional ministry, so it is not as directly relevant to the rest of us, but it is still worth reading.

I think this one should be required reading for any head pastor of a Protestant church. Especially the extroverted ones. I kind of wish I had the guts to mail a copy to my pastor.

Stars: 4

The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris

I read this book years ago. I saw it on a book cart at the library and picked it up because the cover called to me somehow. Kathleen Norris, poet and teacher, muses upon her year as an oblate at a Benedictine monastery. She meditates upon the various aspects of a monastic life, and I learned a lot and came to understand and appreciate a lot more. The most helpful part of this book to me, however, was to awaken me to how much liturgy speaks to me, even when it may not feel like it's doing anything. Liturgical reading and prayers have become foundational aspects of my personal devotional life as a result of having read this book, and it is the richer for them.

Unfortunately, this book has also opened my eyes to how lacking the typical evangelical church is in these contemplative forms of worship. It's an absence that I feel more keenly now that I've learned to look for it.

The book is not tightly-structured; Norris has a decidedly mystic bent, and this is a sketch, not a photograph. But it is beautiful.  

Stars: 4.5

The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and Women's Work by Kathleen Norris

I picked up this slim volume over my Christmas break. I definitely encourage reading The Cloister Walk before this one to give greater context for the discussion here. I have been challenged by this little book to look for moments of "liturgy" in the repetitions of my workaday routine, a reminder that I definitely need.

Stars: 5

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