This article about books for introverts was originally published by Amy Sachs, and we’ve added 12 books to her list.
Not all introverts are book-lovers, and not all book-lovers are introverts. There is, however, definitely some crossover.
As both a book-lover and an introvert myself, I’ve found that there are a ton of books that really speak to introverts. I’ve read the books for introverts on these list, and found myself totally identifying with the dialogue, or wishing I could tell the characters how much I agreed with what was going on inside their heads. (Except, you know, I wouldn’t do that, since I’m an introvert. But I’d TOTALLY THINK IT.)
If you want to know more about the silent powers of introverts, try Susan Cain’s Quiet. If you want to feel completely understood, then Tell the Wolves I’m Home might be just the book for you. No matter what you’re looking for — or if you just like things a little on the quiet side — take a look at this list of 14 books all introverts should read.
1. Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
It’s 1987, and June Elbus has lost her best friend in the world, her uncle Finn. June is 14, and reserved in a way her sister, Greta, will never understand. They used to be so close, but now, the only comfort June can find is in the woods, where she is free to think and be alone without the painful eyes of other people on her. As June finds out more about her uncle, and comes to learn more about herself, her family, and the world itself. This perfectly quiet novel will make any shy or introverted person feel immediately understood.
2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
It’s 2044, and the world is falling apart. Ernest Cline’s bestselling first novel tells the story of Wade Watts, a teenager who has almost completely removed himself from reality in order to pursue an “Easter Egg” within a video game to win a billion dollar prize. Wade, and the rest of the world, would rather communicate via virtual reality than actual reality, they feel more themselves tucked away, a feeling most introverts know all too well.
3. The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
Leslie Jamison takes a look into the inner workings of people you might never have known about: runners of the most intense race around, people who believe they have tiny fibers inside them that they just have to get out. These people are misunderstood, they’re quiet, they’re introverts, they’re looking for a place in the world. You will feel empathy and so much more through Leslie Jamison’s exploration of the people slipping through the cracks.
4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Cath, the fangirl in question, is basically a professional fangirl. She writes fan fiction about her favorite series in the world: Simon Snow. She has thousands of follows waiting impatiently for her next installment, and a twin sister who seems to have grow out of their once shared obsession. When Cath and Wren get to college, they fall in with different crowds: Cath with quiet writers like herself, and Wren with a more outgoing group. Fangirls everywhere will connect with Cath and her struggle to join her fan-life with her “real life.”
5. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Bernadette might be the ultimate introvert in literature. She would rather disappear from her daughter’s life all together than take a trip to Antarctica, because other people will be there. While we’ve surely all felt this way at one time or another, Bernadette takes introversion and dislike of crowds to an entirely new, hilarious level.
6. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Susan Cain takes a scientific look at introverts, and the quiet power they hold, even in a society that seems to grow louder and louder every day. A must read for any and all introverts who could use a little empowerment every now and then.
7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
It wouldn’t be a list about being an introvert without this one. Stephen Chbosky (literally) wrote the book on it. There’s a good chance you read The Perks of Being a Wallflower at some point in high school and related so well to Charlie that you couldn’t quite believe it. He’s quiet, he just wants to read his books, go to school, and make things work, and, sometimes, he just can’t put those things into words. Been there, felt that.
8. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Lisbeth Salander is (fictional) proof that you can be a complete badass, while still not wanting to talk to people. Stopping international espionage is no problem. Going under cover? fine? Lisbeth just doesn’t want to have a conversation about it before she puts a stop to it.
9. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
I like to think Thoreau would have a lot to say about introverts and the power of being quiet and enjoying time alone. I mean, he did go to live in the woods, alone, to enjoy and be one with nature. Walden is the perfect companion for when you just want to be alone yourself, by someone who was a complete pro at it.
10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Francie Nolan turns to books for comfort, escapes out to her fire escape for alone time, and in general, is one of the best fictional introverts around. Best of all? Francie knows that sometimes, you just need to appreciate the quiet, small things around you.
11. Glaciers by by Alexis M. Smith
This tiny book packs a much bigger punch than meets the eye. Told over the course of a single day, Glaciers is the story of one woman, a quiet library employee, making her way through life. She thinks more than she speaks, but the novel moves along almost dreamily. It’s perfect for quiet people, and can be devoured in a day, but should really be spread out as much as you can.
12. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Goldfinch features the ultimate dynamic: the introverted, shy friend joined by the incredibly spunky, outgoing best friend. Tartt’s writing has so much to it, but one of the best parts by far is the friendship between Theo and Boris. An introvert brought out of his shell and pushed by an extroverted friend is something all introverts have experience at least once!
13. Subliminal: How Your Conscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow
Mlodinow explains why we do the things we do. How, as the title says, our subconscious minds rule even our unconscious behaviors and actions. An amazing read for anyone who wants to find out exactly why people are the way they are. Like, for example, why introverts can be so quiet one minute, but feel social the next.
14. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock definitely has the qualities of an introvert, even if he is a little more vocal than some of us when it comes to voicing certain things. Kind of like Lisbeth Salander, he’s ridiculously smart, and he knows it: but he probably won’t vocalize his process as he does it.
15. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Though the iconic image of Gatsby centers around a glittering, pulse-pounding party, Jay and the narrator, Nick, aren’t exactly party animals. If anything, Gatsby seems to be about two introverts lost in a world built for extroverts. Nick, who is quiet and observant, tends to remain in the background of social events, rarely speaking without a good reason. Though he becomes close to Jay Gatsby, he doesn’t evince much interest in the more marginal characters in the book (thus their marginality in the narrative). Meanwhile, Jay throws decadent parties and surrounds himself with socialites, but he clearly finds the events taxing and only wants to be alone with his beloved, Daisy. In fact, he’s been methodically working on a plan to win her back for years, and building castles in the air about the life they’ll have together. Gatsby beautifully captures what it can feel like to be the wallflower at the hoppin’ party.
16. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Jane can be passionate and fiery when it comes to her rights as a person, but for the most part she’s a quiet, unobtrusive presence. Capable of forming profound attachments to others, she cares little for the company of those who are not among her chosen few loved ones. A stimulating conversation with her friend Helen or Mr. Rochester is more than enough to fill her with happiness, and larger social gatherings leave her cold. Jane enjoys her solitary time, dreaming wild dreams or working on paintings; though she isn’t a highly skilled artist, she plans her pieces carefully and executes them thoroughly. Much of Jane Eyre is spent inside Jane’s active, contemplative mind, an effect heightened by the fact that Brontë physically isolates Jane by mostly depicting her in rural settings where she rarely needs to interact with others. And though Jane seems to dream of far-off adventures, in reality she is frightened by the possibility of traveling to India as a missionary, and the lonely moors of England are more than enough for her as long as she’s accompanied by a kindred spirit like Mr. Rochester.
17. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The great detective uses cocaine and tobacco, chases adrenaline highs, and talks to strangers as part of his job: There’s no denying he has extraverted qualities. But his introverted ones are arguably more intense. His need to decompress for days or weeks after a thrilling case bespeaks a need to recharge in solitude; his hours of violin practice or couch-sprawling contemplation testify to his highly developed inner world, attraction to deliberate thought, and lack of need for socializing. While Holmes displays deep affection (very occasionally) for his flatmate and constant companion, Dr. Watson, he doesn’t seek other company — even that of his own brother. Any introvert would feel a kinship with the Holmes recumbent on his couch for days after an active case has closed, smoking and thinking quietly.
18. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Housekeeping is an otherworldly-feeling tale of a family of women who are drawn to drifting. Not only does this book pass the Bechdel Test, it charts familial discord between two introverts and the extrovert confused and frustrated by their socially detached behavior. Seen through the eyes of withdrawn, shy Ruthie, the novel vividly captures this feeling of social detachment. Those outside her tiny circle of loved ones are seen as if through water, distorted and muted. She, like her solitary aunt, thrills to the subtle beauties of nature and can happily be alone or nearly alone for hours, taking in her surroundings. School, meanwhile, is something of a trial. When her gregarious sister insists on being a part of the normal social world of the school and tries to fit in and gain approval from her comrades, Ruthie and their aunt are baffled. That possibility never seems desirable or even fully real to them, and the isolated, pensive tone of the book lulls readers throughout.
19. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
The futuristic dystopia of Super Sad True Love Story seems designed to make neurotic and introverted people twitch. The clamor of social media has risen to almost crushing levels, with books practically a relic of the past and most media conducted via word-salad-esque text or through video streams. Äppäräti, which resemble smartphones, also constantly send and receive data about the surrounding users — how attractive they are compared to others present, how their credit score compares, how their personality compares — and these crowdsourced ratings mean constant confrontation with how others perceive you, as well as constant pressure to improve your scores. In some ways this means a more disconnected society than ever, but it mostly seems like a society devoid of the sorts of quiet, deep friendships and contemplative moments that introverts tend to prefer. Instead, there’s nothing but noise and disruption. Even extroverts may feel the need for a respite from the information overload and relentless chatter in Shteyngart’s dark future New York.
20. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
In The New York Times’ review of this enthralling novella, Anthony Doerr remarks on the “lonesome” quality of the portrayal of the life of Robert Grainier, an orphaned Idaho logger who seems doomed to solitude. Mostly, however, Doerr emphasizes the length of the book: “The novella runs 116 pages, and you can turn all of those pages in 90 minutes. […] Short stories and novellas … offer writers a chance to affect readers more deeply because a reader can be held in thrall for the entirety of the experience.” This fully immersive reading experience heightens the impact of the largely solitary existence of its main character, creating a muted tone and interiorized world that hints at the lifestyle of the hardcore introvert … though Grainier himself may not appreciate all that alone time, as he slowly loses touch with reality through years of isolation.
21. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Truly a world of pure imagination, this children’s classic brings to life the surprising adventures of Milo, a little boy who never knows what to do with himself. Milo isn’t necessarily an introvert (or a very compelling character), but the imaginative quest upon which he sets out — in which words are as tangible as food and abstract concepts come to life — exemplify the joy of a rich inner world. The ever-popular book shows children that sitting quietly with a book or learning math concepts can be just as thrilling as a wild romp with mythical creatures, at least for those of us who don’t need the overstimulation of a real adventure. We may seem to just be sitting quietly alone, but actually we’re enjoying the company of our own off-the-wall thoughts.
22. Persuasion by Jane Austen
Austen prized the deliberate, thoughtful hero and heroine, especially later in her writing career. Persuasion, her last completed book, attests to this. The novel follows Anne Elliot, a faded spinster in her late 20s who is constantly overshadowed by her bolder, louder family members. She lost her seemingly only chance at her own household when, as a young girl, she fell in love with the dashing young sailor Frederick Wentworth, but was persuaded to break off her engagement to him due to his poor financial prospects. As the years go by, Anne pines away, and her always-quiet nature makes her the outcast in her family and reduces her chances at new love. But when the newly successful Wentworth returns, we can’t help but hope that he will still see the beauty and worth in Anne’s reserved, pensive nature. Best of all, Persuasion actually celebrates the aspects of introversion that often make introverts unpopular.
The quintessential reclusive poet, Dickinson spent most of her adult life in her family home, rarely socializing and increasingly living only in her own room. Though she maintained close friendships, they were largely carried out through correspondence. Confined to the home at first by domestic duties, she seemed mostly unfazed by the isolation; her sister later stated that “Emily chose this part and, finding the life with her books and nature so congenial, continued to live it.” Unsurprisingly, Dickinson’s expressive, lyrical poetry captures the quiet fervor of the passionate, thoughtful introvert. The declarations of imaginative power (“I never saw a moor,/I never saw the sea;/Yet know I how the heather looks,/And what a wave must be”), the precise observation of details (“A Bird came down the Walk—/He did not know I saw—/He bit an Angleworm in halves/And ate the fellow, raw”), and the aura of external calm (“I heard a Fly buzz – when I died – /The Stillness in the Room/Was like the Stillness in the Air – /Between the Heaves of Storm – “) that pervade her poems illustrate how introverts derive stimulation from even the smallest things.
24. The Waves by Virginia Woolf
One of Woolf’s most unusual books, The Waves reads more like a prose poem than a novel. The narration is delivered by a six-person chorus — Bernard, Susan, Rhoda, Neville, Louis, and Jinny — as they progress from childhood to adulthood together. Despite the choral narration and the friendships between the characters, The Waves has a pronounced sense of disconnection and isolation. Her work commonly emphasizes the wealth of the interior and the difficulty (or fear) of sharing that interior life with others, and the lyrical form of this work underscores this sentiment. Each character gives voice to their most private moments of rapture and horror, creating a mood of vulnerability and often loneliness, and the fragmented movement of the story echoes the stream of one’s internal thoughts. Woolf creates a strange and poetic world focused almost entirely on the interior world, rather than the external.
25. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Diaz doesn’t tiptoe around the nature of his chubby, nerdy protagonist: “Oscar,” he writes, “was a social introvert who trembled with fear during gym class.” It’s popular Junior who narrates the story, giving us the unusual perspective of an apparent extrovert observing minutely the life of an introvert. Though Oscar actually craves interpersonal intimacy — specifically a girlfriend — the general social scene holds only fear for him. Comfort means reading sci-fi or writing pages and pages of elaborate fantasy stories. Oscar Wao probes the painful dilemma of the shy introvert: He longs for deep relationships, but doesn’t have the ease with casual socializing that might lead to one (a problem only complicated by his conventionally unappealing looks and niche interests).
26. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
The sensitive, observant narrator of Proust’s classic novel shares his inner life and recollections with us so thoroughly that we seem to be inside his mind. He recalls with great fondness the simplest of pleasures — even the taste of a madeleine in tea is so powerful to him that it can trigger waves of nostalgia — suggesting that he is acutely affected by everything in his environment. His attachments are fervent, and he can’t even fall asleep happily as a child without a kiss goodnight from his mother. Meanwhile, the prose moves deliberately, carefully, showing a dedication to careful thought. Perhaps most importantly, you have to be eager to spend hours and hours alone with a book in order to finish this novel — it’s a long one.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of books introverts should read!