by Susan Cain |

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Anyone who has an introverted child-or was one-knows these dreaded words: "He should really speak up more in class." But what if, as is the case for at least a third of the population, gregariousness just doesn't come naturally? In this intriguing book, Cain argues that the constitutionally introverted-those who prefer listening to talking, reading to regaling, solitude to hanging with the gang-get a bum rap. Far from being "a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology," she writes, the inward-focused temperament is uniquely conducive to creativity, innovation, even leadership (see Eleanor Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi), and should be valued as such. Among the findings she cites: group brainstorming in the workplace actually produces fewer and poorer ideas than solo work; risk-loving extroverts out-shouting cautious introverts in the financial industry helped cause the global crisis. Cain takes care not to dump on the talkative: Unless we master telepathy, after all, expressing ideas is a crucial skill. The takeaway for quiet kids? Help them find ways to make themselves heard without forcing them into the "Extrovert Ideal." And quote them a little Gandhi. "In a gentle way," he said, "you can shake the world."

There Is No Dog

by Meg Rosoff |

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Why is God always depicted as an old guy? Rosoff's thoughtful, hilarious YA novel suggests that, in the beginning, teenager Bob was in charge, named Creator when the first choice withdrew to spend time with his family. A feckless sort with an unbridled libido, Bob constructs a wildly imaginative planet but can't be bothered with upkeep; that's left to his assistant, Mr. B. The biggest headaches involve Bob's romances, which cause natural disasters. His wooing of Lucy, an assistant zookeeper, brings rain not seen since Noah's day. Or, as Mr. B puts it, "God falls in love; thousands die."


Jack London-he experienced the wild and describes it like nobody else. Herman Melville as well. I read Moby-Dick again recently. They both tackle the big issues.


I collect books about murder mysteries, but my favorite author of thrillers is James Patterson. I've probably read all of his and Patricia Cornwell's.


John Fante (Ask the Dust). There's something very raw and honest about his writing. Hunter S. Thompson's also a big favorite.


The social-media era hasn't made us less polite, says Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That? author Henry Alford, but it has given us "more canvases to paint our bad manners onto." Some tips for better etiquette, online and off:


Return a phone call with a text.

"There's an implicit hierarchy of communication. If you go lower on the hierarchy, people will think there's a subtext."


Brag too much on Facebook.

"Someone may be having trouble conceiving, for instance, so posting your sonogram as your profile picture isn't the best idea."


Overuse "thx."

"Whenever I see that I wonder, what's wrong with the letters a-n-k? 'Thx' can be an insult, especially in response to a long and thoughtful letter."


Say "No problem"

unless an actual problem has been averted. "It's false modesty. I had a waiter recently who asked if I wanted water. I said 'No thanks,' and he said, 'No problem.'"


Use exclamation points!

"E-mail is tricky tone-wise; there's such a dead-fish aspect to it. The exclamation point is our best friend."