Here’s to the quite heroines. The ones that think in their heads. The ones with the hidden talents. The ones that bottle up their emotions and age them like fine wine. Here’s to the underdog heroes. The ones that suffer from social anxiety. The ones that would rather read about humans than interact with humans. The ones that we can relate to.
I’m an INFJ myself, and I think the extra N, F, and J play a part in my book selections as well. I’m especially human-centered and emotion-focused. If this sounds anything like you, read on. This is my way of declaring, “Introverts Unite! (…Separately)” and I hope you enjoy these quiet masterpieces as much as I did. (I also included commentary that very rarely actually introduces the books properly and are mainly just tangents that I went off on, because blurbs are overrated.)
- Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann
One thing that I find fascinating as an introvert is analyzing other human beings. It’s the eternal paradox that I spend my life both avoiding and studying people. I think the dichotomy comes from trying to uncover the poetry, the quirks, the memories, the tears, the laughter, and the aesthetic that makes up a person while still attempting to seem like a normal, socially acceptable human being. I wish it were ok to walk up to a stranger and ask “Hey which movies make you cry?” or “What keeps you up until 3 AM?”
OK, I’ve said nothing about this book up to this point, but essentially, it’s a novel that captures the human essence. It follows several characters whose paths crisscross in the amazing setting of 1970s New York. It introduces prostitutes, photographers, Irishmen, a judge, a stuntsman, nursing home residents, Park Avenue residents, mothers whose sons have passed away, and it introduces them all passionately and vulnerably. I guarantee that every sentence is poetry.
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with such a relatable heroine. She refuses to eat at her college cafeteria for fear of human interaction, she holes up in her room to write fan fiction, and she cares more about her relationships with the people she loves more than anything else. While I’m not in love with the plot, which I found to be a little on the cliché side, I loved the portrait Rowell painted of freshman year at college and suffering through it all as a socially awkward introvert.
- The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato
This tale told from the POV of a psychopathic murderer actually freaked me out, because I found that I could relate to the main character more than I cared to admit. Juan Pablo Castel, the murderer, overanalyzes everything to great lengths and falls in obsessive love with a woman. It’s thrilling and chilling – a great Halloween read, I suppose. Even cooler? You’ll be able to tell your friends you read Argentinian existentialist literature.
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I’ll be honest, I haven’t read this novel beyond the high school yearbook-esque quotes (i.e. “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”) But the idea of “wallflower” fits right along with “introversion.” Too often introverts are the ones that are pushed aside, overlooked, marginalized. And the themes of introspection and trying to figure out life while also trying to grow up are the sorts of things any teenager connect to.
- The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
While this children’s series may be a little below your reading level, hear me out. As introverts, we often see ourselves as special, as different from everyone else. This book completely focuses on four orphaned children whose unique talents get them placed together on a team to complete a mission to save the world. It’s a story that’s both simple and witty, a story replete with loveable characters and quirky logic puzzles. Growing up, I loved stories about gifted children (Matilda, Harry Potter, The Series of Unfortunate Events), because I saw a little bit of myself in them – the kids who like to read, the kids who look out for each other, the kids who think differently.
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel
For an introvert, the idea of being stuck in a boat away from civilization for a while sounds kind of appealing. Plenty of introspection ensues throughout the book, and while I’m not big on man vs. nature survivor stories, this one is different. It’s unique, multicultural, and rooted in a deeper exploration of religion.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
If you feel like you’re always third wheeling, this one’s for you. Written in the Fitzgerald’s signature enchanting prose, this book is his most famous piece of writing for a reason. It’s a classic 1920s New York story rich with themes of love and morality and social class and how the three don’t mix so easily. Not only that, but the entire book is basically an observation, what Nick Carraway sees and how he tells it. As an introvert, I can relate to Carraway’s affinity for listening instead of speaking, for analyzing the people around him.
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Remember that movie a while ago starring Reese Witherspoon that got Oscar buzz? This was the memoir that inspired it all. It’s another one of those on my must-read-sometime list rather than on my have-read list, but I did read a piece by Cheryl Strayed and adored it. Her writing style is both down-to-earth and infinitely poignant, a refreshing mix of the realistic and the emotional. Another one of those deeply introspective authors, most of her writings focus on her trek on the Pacific Crest Trail – how she did it and what she found out about herself.
- The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh
This book gives me shivers. This dark, emotional tale follows the tale of a North Vietnamese soldier and his experiences during the Vietnam War. Written by an actual North Vietnamese Vietnam War veteran, the scenes and little stories are so realistic that they draw you in and tear your heart out. What makes it different from the usual war story? There’s a deep sadness strung artfully throughout the book, a sadness that moves beyond violence, that leaves traces of sorrow in moments of peace and love as well as moments of loss and death. Any introvert who bottles up his emotions and expresses them through writing and art should be able to relate to the protagonist’s struggles.
- A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith
I’ve mentioned this book before in a post titled “College Interview Questions” and I’m mentioning it again because it’s literally my favorite book of all time. It’s kind of an unassuming classic. It’s a book that you might have heard of before but didn’t think much of it. It’s not a book that’s on your typical English class reading list, and it’s a book where nothing much happens at all. But to me, it’s a book about life. Readers follow the life of a girl as she grows into a young lady, a girl who is a classic introvert. She hides away to read, she observes the world quietly, and she works hard to make it on her own. But more than that, she is a girl that is made of poetry but doesn’t know it yet. Honestly, I loved the heroine so much, I became her. Well, I borrowed her. Her name is my pseudonym for this blog – Francie Nolan.
I find that books with relatable introverted characters tend to be my favorites. To the true introvert though, every good book is a friend. The written word is the home in which the introvert thrives. I hope you’ll find homes in the books listed above.
While you get busy reading, I’ll be putting together a Ten Movies Every Introvert Should Watch list and a playlist for introverts, so look out for that! xx