This is part of my Summer Reads series where I’ll be reviewing a series of “not just cookbooks”.
Are you an introvert? Or an extrovert? Or are you a shy introvert (a “shintrovert” – socially awkward introvert) like Jessica Pan? Pan is also the writer who explored the world doing “extrovert-y” things for a year – saying “yes” to activities that scared her and chronicled them in the hilarious (in an uncomfortable sort of way if you are a “shintrovert” too) Sorry I’m late, I didn’t want to come which should be required reading for anyone who wants to become a little more extroverted, meet new friends or try new things. Pan’s done the legwork for you so you can read her experiences and decide which ones might work for you. Or not!
From the publisher:
What would happen if a shy introvert lived like a gregarious extrovert for one year? If she knowingly and willingly put herself in perilous social situations that she’d normally avoid at all costs? Writer Jessica Pan intends to find out. With the help of various extrovert mentors, Jessica sets up a series of personal challenges (talk to strangers, perform stand-up comedy, host a dinner party, travel alone, make friends on the road, and much, much worse) to explore whether living like an extrovert can teach her lessons that might improve the quality of her life. Chronicling the author’s hilarious and painful year of misadventures, this book explores what happens when one introvert fights her natural tendencies, takes the plunge, and tries (and sometimes fails) to be a little bit braver.
The premise of this book is both light-hearted (Pan is able to step back and gently poke fun at herself) but also looks at the science behind introvertism/ extrovertism, citing numerous articles and books if you’re interested in learning more. Pan is an American who finds herself in London, married but with no real friends, working as a freelancer so her days are quite lonely. A series of events finds her fully clothed in a sauna (you’ll have to read the book!) coming to the realisation that she going to need to do some work if she wants to find new friends in her new city and not let loneliness cloud her whole life.
Pan’s writing style is conversational and chatty so it’s just like you’re sharing a coffee or a drink with her as she tells you her stories and funny (if at her own expense) and, through the book she works her way through a series of challenges she sets for herself that might fell even the biggest of extroverts: asking silly questions to folks on the Tube, performing stand up comedy, doing improv (in front of other people!!), travelling solo to an unknown destination, using mobile apps to meet friends and hosting a dinner party for a group of friends who don’t know each other amongst other things. I know a lot of these activities make my toes curl just thinking about them (silly questions to strangers on public transport? I’d rather eat brains on toast… stand up comedy? No thanks!). Through her year of activities, she learns so much about herself – how far she can push herself (pretty far, I’m impressed, because I would have backed away from so many of the things she did!) but also about human nature and how people respond to different personality types.
It’s a fascinating, witty read that will have you laughing deep belly laughs, curling your toes and panicking along with Pan but also cheering for her as she tackles all the “extroverty” things you think about but might not want to try. You’ll hold your breath as she describes the moments where she’s performing on stage and she can’t quite remember what to say. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief as her Thanksgiving dinner party, complete with Nigella’s Coca Cola Ham, goes swimmingly, despite so much anxiety about so many things (the guests don’t know each other! I’ve never made this recipe before!).
And at the end of the book there’s a sense of calm. Pan has come out the other side of her “year of saying yes” not only having survived but having learned so much about herself and just what she’s able to do without anxiety crippling her. Being an extrovert all the time has taught her the importance of knowing when it will benefit her and, ultimately, has made her more confident. It seems she’s made peace with her “shintrovert” status and that this will always be a part of who she is. Pan learns the importance of finding (and keeping) “her people” – those people you can call to meet up for a coffee or a drink or, more importantly in a crisis – but also when it’s time to curl up on the couch and watch “Come Dine with Me” reruns alone. As she says:
I have a tiny social life. A new way to experience the world when I want to. I really like my comfort zone, but I also know I’ll be ok if I leap into the unknown or the scary for a while
That, my friends, is a shintrovert’s “happily ever after”, I’d say!
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Disclosure: I purchased this book for myself. All opinions are my own.
MY BOOK! In the French kitchen with kids is out now! Click here for order details.