Category Archives: Psychology/Sociology/Spirituality

The Chocolate War

The Chocolate Warunknown

by: Robert Cormier

Ember (Random House) New York, NY  1974, 2002

This is NOT a recommendation.  I hated this book (and eventually I’ll tell you why).  I am flabbergasted that it made the lists where I found it recommended.  After reading this book I wonder if any of the people who write those lists actually read this book or if they just read a good review, and the description, and put it on their list.  Even the copyright page has an endnote: “Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.”

This SOUNDS like a good book.  The basic summary: “A high school freshman discovers the devastating consequences of refusing to join in the school’s annual fund-raising drive and arousing the wrath of the school bullies.” seems pretty strait forward.  I’ll even grant that it is well written.  The characters are well developed.  The motivation for bullying is clear.  Even the demands of being a bully are touched on in the narrative.

However, there is no redemption.  The bullies are not just the teenaged boys, but also their teachers.  The bullies are not just running the school, they are apparently running the world.  The bullies win.  The bullies are rewarded.  The bullies become successful.   The bullies get the promotion and all their “dodgy” behavior is swept under the rug.  Give me Lord of the Flies (by William Golding).  At least there is some sense of “oh what have we done!” at the end.  Here we get bullying is the only way to really get ahead.

Maybe this is the book for our current political climate.  Maybe this is the way the world is destined to become.  Maybe this is who we are as a race.  I can’t abide that.  I need to live with a different world view.  I need to have teen fiction promote a different world view.  I need this to not be okay.

I hate this book.  It promotes this bad behavior, this horrible predatory attitude.  I can’t recommend it.  It may be a good place to start a discussion, but even in that context I don’t like it.  I don’t think a book should “require” a book club to be a good read.

I do believe in the first amendment and the right to read.  I don’t believe in promoting destructive behavior, and that’s what this book does.  It’s not an examination of cruel behavior patterns, it’s a propaganda piece for not “disturbing the universe”.


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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop TalkingUnknown

by: Susan Cain

Random House, New York, NY 2013


I had heard about this book.  It’s been on the New York Times bestseller list and on Amazon’s top books as well.  It wasn’t until someone recommended it to me directly that I picked it up.  I’m glad I did.

Most people (including my therapist) don’t really believe me when I say I’m an introvert.  I’m not really shy.  I’m verbally adept.  I’m willing to express an opinion and engage in controversy particularly when I am passionate about the subject.  I’ve done public speaking.  I’m a writer and I maintain a public presence.

What most people don’t notice is that when I talk about myself I usually do it without engaging emotionally.  I’m more likely to start to talk about myself and then immediately shift the topic, or to hide the important information in a random pile of data.  I don’t make it easy for people to get to know me.  What most people don’t see is how exhausted I am after spending an hour or two with a large group of people, at a party or any kind of gathering.  What most people don’t know is how my stomach turns when I anticipate seeing people in groups.  Most people don’t recognize how quickly I’ll jump on any excuse to avoid public events.

Quiet acknowledges all those things.  This book talks about the extrovert culture and how much pressure there is for the introvert to “convert”.  Susan Cain discusses the phenomena I demonstrate, the introvert who has trained themselves to look like an extrovert.  I’ve never seen anything like this and I can’t express how relieved I was to find myself validated.

Most books about introverts talk about them as socially awkward or isolated.  This book delves into the advantages to the social structure of the introvert point of view.  It addresses introverts in the workplace and in relationships.  It gives value to the huge percentage of the population struggling to cope in “a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”

The person who recommended this book to me is a natural extrovert.  He found the book fascinating because it  ultimately advocates for balance.  He can see how his life would benefit if he could find a way to make more room for the introverts.  I know it won’t be easy for him.  Nor would it be easy for us on a cultural level, but Susan Cain makes a good case for a little change being worth it. Information and understanding are a great first step.  On that basis alone I can highly recommend this book.


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