Introverts like reading books, right? But who said that all the introverts love reading books about introversion? Whenever I find lists of books for introverts, they rarely include fiction, poetry or things like that. Most of the books there are about self-help, personal development or psychology of introversion.
Well, we’re not the poor things who only need help. There are great books, that really help introverts to understand who they are like „Quiet“ by Susan Cain, but I find fictional books with stories no less inspiring and much more fun!
Here I’m fixing the situation. I am starting a list of great epic books for introverts that are not about psychology and introversion.
Epic books for introverts
The books selected here are the ones that follow the stories of characters with subtle personalities – be it loners, misfits, sensitives or just quieter ones. Why do I say that these books are epic? Because they are like deep journeys into rich inner worlds of characters.
Feel free to leave a comment and offer your book to the list.
Books are described here in no particular order.
1) Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Genre: Adventure. Author: Herman Melville. First published: 1851. Original language: English.
This is an epic story about a ship chasing a legendary whale called Moby Dick. A crazy captain Ahab considers catching this particular whale to be the quest of his life and travels across the globe to find it. The book is rich in details about the life in the sea, whale hunting and culture of sailors. The book is even considered to be one of the Great American Novels.
What makes it appealing to introverts is the main character, Ishmael. He is not a maniacal leader like Ahab or a rowdy maverick like harpooners Queequeg or Tashtego. Our Ishmael is like an observer noticing every tiny detail in the course of events but not really participating in them. He often raises philosophical questions and notices unexpected patterns of reality.
He also finds it difficult to be alert while watching for whales in the watch tower:
Let me make a clean breast of it here, and frankly admit that I kept but sorry guard. With the problem of the universe evolving in me, how could I–being left completely to myself at such a thought-engendering altitude–how could I but lightly hold my obligations to observe all whale-ships’ standing orders, “Keep your weather eye open, and sing out every time.”
This book inspired me to venture for a long trip through Asia.
Recommended for those who dream about faraway lands and epic adventurous journeys.
2) Crime and Punishment
Genre: Psychological. Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky. First published: 1866. Original language: Russian.
This book follows Rodion, an impoverished guy who tries to get some money by killing an old pawnbroker and stealing her money. He killed her successfully and stole the money, but his inner suffering caused by the crime leaves his mind unrest. The whole book follows his inner struggle, which can be considered the real punishment, harsher and more intense than mere imprisonment could be.
The book is appealing because of the incredibly rich inner life of the main character. Here the events in the mind of Rodion can even overshadow events in the real life and often causes or influences them. The character is overthinking each and every step, and one of the most amazing moments was his overthinking during the crime itself. How can one commit a crime while overthinking?
“Am I very pale?” he wondered. “Am I not evidently agitated? She is mistrustful…. Had I better wait a little longer… till my heart leaves off thumping?”
This is one of few books from a mandatory course of world literature at school that I enjoyed reading.
Recommended for those who want to dive deeply into the characters’ mind.
3) Nineteen Eighty-Four
Genre: Dystopia. Author: George Orwell. First published: 1949. Original language: English.
This book is about a totalitarian regime where the main character Winston tries to live. The book is famous for its depiction of dark unpleasant future, where almost everything is strictly controlled by the government. The telescreens are everywhere through which the government is watching its citizens and even issue orders to them.
Winston represents a free thinker in a world controlled by social or cultural norms, where every action and even every thought is judged to be right or wrong. What is the most frightful, it is the constant government intervention in the thinking of the people by the use of propaganda, constructed language and punishing the lack of reckless enthusiasm.
It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live–did live, from habit that became instinct–in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
Once it seemed to me, that this book depicts reality quite well. Seemed that people, media, society, job – all of them want to control my thoughts.
Recommended for those who like conspiracy theories and dystopian worlds.
4) The Trial
Genre: Absurd. Author: Franz Kafka. First published: 1925. Original language: German.
This is a very strange story of Josef K., who is tried at the court for a crime unknown even to himself. The book does not seem to be really finished, like most of Kafka’s works, some parts are brilliantly immersing … and then they just suddenly stop. However, it is considered to be one of Best German Novels of the Twentieth Century.
Josef is trapped in a world of bureaucracy and absurd rules without even knowing what does he want to do and what does he want to achieve there. Sometimes we want to live our lives without interruptions, but it’s not always that easy in this world with its sometimes stupid and unnecessary rules. Kafka managed to capture this feeling incredibly well.
K. waited for the usher, who was following just behind him. “They must all be very dispirited,” he said. “Yes,” said the usher, “they are the accused, everyone you see here has been accused.”
Why not “The Metamorphosis”? Because “The Trial” is more epic. It is recommended for those who … I don’t even know. The absurdity of the life exposed…
5) Brave New World
Genre: Utopia. Author: Aldous Huxley. First published: 1932. Original language: English.
This book is often compared to Nineteen Eighty-Four because it also talks about a society deliberately controlled by the government. However, the government here uses different methods – instead of putting people under constant fear, they drown them in constant pleasure, instead of making them constantly alert, they provide people with drugs.
There is one character that seems quite a misfit, but not a very positive one – Bernard Marx. He usually hates community activities or simple plain pleasures, however, his jealousy and hypocrisy make it impossible to relate to him. But maybe those negativities are just the adverse impact of a society so closely resembling the real world today?
Separate and unatoned, while the others were being fused into the Greater Being; alone even in Morgana’s embrace-much more alone, indeed, more hopelessly himself than he had ever been in his life before. He had emerged from that crimson twilight into the common electric glare with a self-consciousness intensified to the pitch of agony.
Recommended for those, who believe that there is something wrong with the world.
Genre: Philosophical. Author: Herman Hesse. First published: 1927. Original language: German.
For those who are familiar with strange worlds depicted by Herman Hesse, this will be of no surprise. It begins as a quite dull story about a middle-aged man Harry, who is thinking about suicide, but the story becomes more and more interesting, more and more strange when he learns about the “magic theater“.
Harry is a stranger in this world, feeling absolutely isolated from others, deep down in his negativity. But in the pages of the book, the completely different world appears in front of his eyes, that was always hidden. According to Hesse, the author, there is a possibility of transcendence and healing described in the book, sadly, readers often concentrate on the despair of the main character in the beginning.
“Do you wish for instruction in the building up of the personality?”
“Then be so kind as to place a few dozen of your pieces at my disposal.”
“Of the pieces into which you saw your so-called personality broken up. I can’t play without pieces.”
Recommended for those who like the mystery.
7) Lone Wolf and Cub
Genre: Graphic novel. Authors: Kazuo Koike, Goseki Kojima. First published: 1970. Original language: Japanese.
This is an epic story of a samurai, whose family is assassinated by a rival clan except his 3-year-old son. He decided to revenge for his family and abandoned the way of the samurai, choosing the way of wandering homeless assassin instead. Strange as it is, he took his son with him.
The samurai Ogami Ittō is the master of masters, and his calm demeanor, stoic approach to the calamities that he meets on the way are truly inspiring. He is a man of few words and also a man of few sword strokes because those are always enough due to his superb skill.
This is a Japanese comic, but different from anything you have ever seen because there are no usual manga-ish kawaii characters with unproportionally huge eyes and childish behavior. Instead, it is an epic journey through history and customs of medieval Japan, as well as the philosophy of samurai expressed in artistic drawings and stories full of eastern wisdom.
Never ever watch the movie with the same title – it is bad. Really bad.
This graphic novel is recommended for those who like good graphic novels.
That’s all for now. All these stories are really great examples of their own genres, they might be not that inspiring (well, dystopias…) but really thought-provoking and relatable.
Readers of this article would be glad to hear your suggestions. What great books for introverts, but not about introversion do you know?