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Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole

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In her new masterpiece, the author of the bestselling phenomenon Quiet reveals the power of a bittersweet outlook on life, and why we’ve been so blind to its value. With Quiet, Susan Cain urged our society to cultivate space for the undervalued, indispensable introverts among us, thereby revealing an untapped power hidden in plain sight. Now she employs the same mix of rese In her new masterpiece, the author of the bestselling phenomenon Quiet reveals the power of a bittersweet outlook on life, and why we’ve been so blind to its value. With Quiet, Susan Cain urged our society to cultivate space for the undervalued, indispensable introverts among us, thereby revealing an untapped power hidden in plain sight. Now she employs the same mix of research, storytelling, and memoir to explore why we experience sorrow and longing, and the surprising lessons these states of mind teach us about creativity, compassion, leadership, spirituality, mortality, and love. Bittersweetness is a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy when beholding beauty. It recognizes that light and dark, birth and death—bitter and sweet—are forever paired. A song in a minor key, an elegiac poem, or even a touching television commercial all can bring us to this sublime, even holy, state of mind—and, ultimately, to greater kinship with our fellow humans. But bittersweetness is not, as we tend to think, just a momentary feeling or event. It’s also a way of being, a storied heritage. Our artistic and spiritual traditions—amplified by recent scientific and management research—teach us its power. Cain shows how a bittersweet state of mind is the quiet force that helps us transcend our personal and collective pain. If we don’t acknowledge our own sorrows and longings, she says, we can end up inflicting them on others via abuse, domination, or neglect. But if we realize that all humans know—or will know—loss and suffering, we can turn toward each other. And we can learn to transform our own pain into creativity, transcendence, and connection. At a time of profound discord and personal anxiety, Bittersweet brings us together in deep and unexpected ways.


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In her new masterpiece, the author of the bestselling phenomenon Quiet reveals the power of a bittersweet outlook on life, and why we’ve been so blind to its value. With Quiet, Susan Cain urged our society to cultivate space for the undervalued, indispensable introverts among us, thereby revealing an untapped power hidden in plain sight. Now she employs the same mix of rese In her new masterpiece, the author of the bestselling phenomenon Quiet reveals the power of a bittersweet outlook on life, and why we’ve been so blind to its value. With Quiet, Susan Cain urged our society to cultivate space for the undervalued, indispensable introverts among us, thereby revealing an untapped power hidden in plain sight. Now she employs the same mix of research, storytelling, and memoir to explore why we experience sorrow and longing, and the surprising lessons these states of mind teach us about creativity, compassion, leadership, spirituality, mortality, and love. Bittersweetness is a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy when beholding beauty. It recognizes that light and dark, birth and death—bitter and sweet—are forever paired. A song in a minor key, an elegiac poem, or even a touching television commercial all can bring us to this sublime, even holy, state of mind—and, ultimately, to greater kinship with our fellow humans. But bittersweetness is not, as we tend to think, just a momentary feeling or event. It’s also a way of being, a storied heritage. Our artistic and spiritual traditions—amplified by recent scientific and management research—teach us its power. Cain shows how a bittersweet state of mind is the quiet force that helps us transcend our personal and collective pain. If we don’t acknowledge our own sorrows and longings, she says, we can end up inflicting them on others via abuse, domination, or neglect. But if we realize that all humans know—or will know—loss and suffering, we can turn toward each other. And we can learn to transform our own pain into creativity, transcendence, and connection. At a time of profound discord and personal anxiety, Bittersweet brings us together in deep and unexpected ways.

30 review for Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole

  1. 4 out of 5

    Catherine (alternativelytitledbooks)

    **Many thanks to NetGalley, Crown, and Susan Cain for an ARC of this book!! Now available as of 4.5!!** "'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, that's life..."-The Verve Susan Cain is perhaps best known for starting the "Quiet Revolution", a movement spurned by her first book, where the hidden power of the introvert was brought to light and readers all over the world (myself included) rejoiced. What if the extrovert "ideal" and energy we are all supposed to aspire to encompass should instead be **Many thanks to NetGalley, Crown, and Susan Cain for an ARC of this book!! Now available as of 4.5!!** "'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, that's life..."-The Verve Susan Cain is perhaps best known for starting the "Quiet Revolution", a movement spurned by her first book, where the hidden power of the introvert was brought to light and readers all over the world (myself included) rejoiced. What if the extrovert "ideal" and energy we are all supposed to aspire to encompass should instead be tamped down...and the power of the introspective, quiet, ponderer be brought center stage? In Bittersweet, Cain poses a different question: have you ever loved listening to a sad song that pulled at your heart, gave you goosebumps, maybe even made you tear up and wondered "why?" How on earth can I feel broken...and yet whole at the same time? Susan Cain explores this phenomenon in Bittersweet, and while some of her conclusions may not feel entirely new, this book reads as part memoir, part self-help, and part thesis on how the most heartbreaking times and even the most tragic circumstances we face in life can lead us to greatness. What sets this basic theory (you can't have light without dark) apart from so many other explorations of the same topic is Cain's refusal to go entirely down a religious path (of course, spirituality plays a part in the journey of many, and she does reflect on the application of these ideas in different religions throughout). Instead, she takes a deep dive into the history of longing, how we process trauma, and how suffering is not only a necessary part of life, but an opportunity for the deepest kinship we can process as humans. She also decries the notion than an appreciation for the dark and mysterious is tied to depression or depressive behavior, which is a welcome stance in a world that can't seem to separate the two. In a revealing and heart-wrenching chapter, Cain even reveals some very personal trauma in her own life and lets the reader inside her relationship with her mother, as well as a discussion of some personal loss she has suffered in the last two years, in light of the pandemic. There is so much to unpack here, and this book is the perfect blend of self-help, philosophical thought, and a reflection of who we are as a human race--and all we can become. Cain also has a fantastic book club kit to supplement this read, complete with a Bittersweet playlist (HIGHLY recommended) just to help enhance your experience and flex those bittersweet muscles. If Quiet was a love song to the quiet strength of the introvert, consider Bittersweet an ode to the power of melancholy to elicit joy, healing, and the endless pursuit of beauty---ever present, ever inspiring, but always JUST out of our reach. 4 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    Though it's not as good as her massively popular first book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, this is a touching look at the value in recognizing the intertwined nature of the sweet and the poignant. Click here to hear more of my thoughts on this book over on my Booktube channel, abookolive! Though it's not as good as her massively popular first book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, this is a touching look at the value in recognizing the intertwined nature of the sweet and the poignant. Click here to hear more of my thoughts on this book over on my Booktube channel, abookolive!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    3.5 rating….. rating up!!! Audiobook…..read by Susan …..7 hours and 35 minutes Susan Cain is the real deal ….. One cannot - not - admire her work. For me…. This book doesn’t have the urgency power that her book QUIET does (a book every educator and parent should read)..,.. But… it reinforced things I already fully believe in…. The topic explored about sadness from every point of view was excellent….. Parts of the books were too contextual- I enjoyed the experiential parts more. What WAS great for me 3.5 rating….. rating up!!! Audiobook…..read by Susan …..7 hours and 35 minutes Susan Cain is the real deal ….. One cannot - not - admire her work. For me…. This book doesn’t have the urgency power that her book QUIET does (a book every educator and parent should read)..,.. But… it reinforced things I already fully believe in…. The topic explored about sadness from every point of view was excellent….. Parts of the books were too contextual- I enjoyed the experiential parts more. What WAS great for me…… …..was the smooth sounding lovely time just listening to Susan’s voice!!! She’s soooo likable - real - and compassionate

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kerrin

    At times this was interesting and insightful, but ultimately forgettable.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

    Maybe it was an expectation vs. reality situation, but I ended up not enjoying this book. I thought it was going to be a psychological exploration of how sorrow and longing affect us as individuals, as a society, and even as humankind as a whole. The author did actually start off in this way and I was really into it. But then it quickly took a turn into a weird spiritual self-help thing, which was doubly strange as the author pointed out no less than 4 times that she’s not religious. I also felt Maybe it was an expectation vs. reality situation, but I ended up not enjoying this book. I thought it was going to be a psychological exploration of how sorrow and longing affect us as individuals, as a society, and even as humankind as a whole. The author did actually start off in this way and I was really into it. But then it quickly took a turn into a weird spiritual self-help thing, which was doubly strange as the author pointed out no less than 4 times that she’s not religious. I also felt like it was extremely disjointed and digressive. I kept forgetting what the book was even about and even now having finished it, I wouldn’t be able to tell you how to relate 75% of the book back to the main subject matter.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brian Larson

    When “Bittersweet” is great, it’s great; when it’s “meh” it’s really meh. Cain posits her hypothesis many times throughout “Bittersweet.” Although, to me, the hypothesis still remains nebulous and a little too close to the world of academia. Cain tugs readers between bitter and sweet until the penultimate chapter where she delivers her one-two punch (if you just read one chapter of “Bittersweet” then make sure it’s “Chapter 9: Do we inherit the pain of our parents and ancestors? And, if so, can When “Bittersweet” is great, it’s great; when it’s “meh” it’s really meh. Cain posits her hypothesis many times throughout “Bittersweet.” Although, to me, the hypothesis still remains nebulous and a little too close to the world of academia. Cain tugs readers between bitter and sweet until the penultimate chapter where she delivers her one-two punch (if you just read one chapter of “Bittersweet” then make sure it’s “Chapter 9: Do we inherit the pain of our parents and ancestors? And, if so, can we transform it generations later?”). After a chapter on RAADfesters (which is interesting but largely too anecdotal to support it’s own chapter) Cain doubles down on her original hypothesis but in a more succinct manner: “Sorrow, longing, and maybe even mortality itself are a unifying force, a pathway to love; and that our greatest and most difficult task is learning how to walk it.” “Bittersweet” is learning to find meaning in life’s darker moments while not being afraid to sit in a chair listening to a haunting adagio as you contemplate life and all her intricacies. There are far too many references to Leonard Cohen. “Bittersweet” could easily have been called “What Leonard Cohen Taught Me.” At some points I wondered if Cain’s publisher had pushed her to produce a novel out of a couple finished chapters and she simply riffed on her love for the late Cohen. It’s strange. Still, the one area where Cain is able to connect her love for Cohen to her research is through the exploration of STEs (self-transcendent experiences). These couple pages are some of the best in “Bittersweet.” For all Cain’s quasi-research (the “bittersweet quiz” is anything but research), her message remains simple: take the good with the bad, but remember the bad; it holds the true meaning to your karmic life. Also, take time to be sad! Sadness spurs creativity way more than feeling happy all the times does (ps: nobody is truly happy ALL of the time).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    I LOVED THIS BOOK. I loved it so much that it makes it hard to write a review that will explain why. First I’ll start off by saying that Susan Cain’s book Quiet was one of those “changed my life” books for me. It helped me to make sense of being introverted and see it as an advantage rather than a weakness. In a similar but completely new way, this book explores the theme of melancholy and how we can view it as something beautiful. I come to this reading experience with a Christian worldview, wh I LOVED THIS BOOK. I loved it so much that it makes it hard to write a review that will explain why. First I’ll start off by saying that Susan Cain’s book Quiet was one of those “changed my life” books for me. It helped me to make sense of being introverted and see it as an advantage rather than a weakness. In a similar but completely new way, this book explores the theme of melancholy and how we can view it as something beautiful. I come to this reading experience with a Christian worldview, which means that I believe God will one day make all things new. There is a distinct hope in the coming restoration that makes Christians echo with the Apostle John “Come, Lord Jesus.” Even in this statement there is a longing for what is not yet reality. What that has to do with this book is this: even with the author coming from a completely different worldview (she describes herself as an agnostic), I felt at home in these pages. I think maybe even *because* she writes from a different worldview, I was so impressed with her handling of my faith (among others). The author and I come to different conclusions about where all our sorrow and longing are ultimately pointing us, but in my case it drove me to deeper appreciation of the gospel narrative. Because she explores how other religions handle pain and longing, I think many others who read this will feel “seen” as well. Aside from the personal connection I feel to this theme, I also loved the social commentary aspect. There was one section in particular that I found fascinating, in which it is explained how the United States became the land where everyone is expected to be happy all the time. This book also weaves in a bit of memoir, but it fits well in the context, so it doesn’t seem out of place in a work of nonfiction. Pretty much everything about this book worked for me. I was fascinated, inspired, and even moved to tears at points. If you tend to look for light in the darkness, are moved to tears by beautiful music, or have ever experienced a lingering sense of homesickness, you might just love this as much as I did. ❤️ “The bittersweet is also about the recognition that light and dark, birth and death—bitter and sweet—are forever paired.” “The bittersweet is about the desire for communion, the wish to go home.” “But if we realize that all humans know—or will know—loss and suffering, we can turn toward each other. This idea—of transforming pain into creativity, transcendence, and love—is the heart of this book.” P.S. I read parts of this and listened to parts on audio. The audiobook is fantastic, as it is read by the author. She has a very calming voice that was pleasant to listen to. 😊

  8. 4 out of 5

    Erika

    First off a huge thank you to Crown Publishing Group and Goodreads for providing me with an advanced copy of Bittersweet. As a lover of Susan Cain’s earlier book, Quiet, this book was at the top of my 2022 reading list. As someone who instinctively resists the trap of rampant positivity, I was intrigued by Cain’s premise that life is incredibly hard and unfair and yet there is beauty to be borne in the midst of the trials we all will inevitably face. Throughout her book, Cain illustrates an impo First off a huge thank you to Crown Publishing Group and Goodreads for providing me with an advanced copy of Bittersweet. As a lover of Susan Cain’s earlier book, Quiet, this book was at the top of my 2022 reading list. As someone who instinctively resists the trap of rampant positivity, I was intrigued by Cain’s premise that life is incredibly hard and unfair and yet there is beauty to be borne in the midst of the trials we all will inevitably face. Throughout her book, Cain illustrates an important point that grief and longing are not things to be easily dismissed, but instead have the potential to lead to some of the most beautiful and meaningful moments of our lives. Indeed, simply reading the Prelude left me feeling bereft, but in the most wonderful way. In addition to sharing some of her personal heartaches, Cain does an excellent job of approaching her topic from a variety of different backgrounds, science, and schools of religious thought. There is literally something for everyone to relate to within the pages of this book and many new ways of thinking that expand one’s predisposed ideas on the subject of loss and longing. One of the chapters that particularly interested me was the discussion on Epigenetics and the way that trauma, as well as resilience, can be passed from one generation to another. I also enjoyed her discussion on the culture of positivity within America and the effects it has had on our society over the years. Throughout the book there are many references to the work of C.S. Lewis which led me to expect more insight into Christianity and the way it factors into the concepts of hope and grief. Having read the book, I can understand why Cain chose not to focus too heavily on this perspective, but it still seemed like a minor oversight or missed opportunity in my view. Still, Cain provides an extensive list of resources and works cited, which gives ample opportunity for further study. Overall, Bittersweet is another excellent and thought provoking read from a much loved author. I can’t wait to see it in bookstores.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katharine Pelican

    This book reminded me of when I was in post grad and I knew that my paper did not have a fully formed, comprehensive, convincing argument so I packed it with good writing and lots of anecdotes to distract my professors from its lack of substance. I would sometimes get away with it, as Cain is sure to do for countless readers in Bittersweet, but to me it fell very short of the mark. I’m always wary of non-fiction that attempts to convince you of an author's hypothesis, and I was reminded reading This book reminded me of when I was in post grad and I knew that my paper did not have a fully formed, comprehensive, convincing argument so I packed it with good writing and lots of anecdotes to distract my professors from its lack of substance. I would sometimes get away with it, as Cain is sure to do for countless readers in Bittersweet, but to me it fell very short of the mark. I’m always wary of non-fiction that attempts to convince you of an author's hypothesis, and I was reminded reading this why that is. To me, this was an uneven, overly anecdotal, and unconvincing book that should have remained just a TED talk. Based on her compelling introduction, I expected hands-down for this to be a five star read – finally an author who is dedicating a book to the state of melancholy, and by extension, melancholics - those who aren't depressed, who can eat, sleep, and function - but who operate with a gentle thrum of sadness most days. Which made it all the more disappointing as I continued reading and realized that Cain failed to deliver on her thesis. Oftentimes, I found her to be on the precipice of making some really cogent, discerning connections and observations, but never quite got there. This isn’t to say that there aren’t passages and even some chapters that were insightful, interesting, or inspiring; there were. But overall the sentiment I was left with upon finishing was disappointment for a missed opportunity to drive the conversation on a rarely discussed state of being forward. 2.5 rounded up to 3 stars.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Howard

    4 Stars for Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole (audiobook) by Susan Cain read by the author. This was an interesting look into the darker emotions and why they matter. It seems that we are really hardwired to respond to them in a beneficial way. It was fascinating to see an overview of the topic and see how our brains actually react to sorrow and longing.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kris Patrick

    I’ll be bold. This book didn’t say much of anything.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Hanes

    I’m throwing in the towel on page 61. This book just isn’t what I’m in the mood for right now, and it’s also not what I thought it would be. I thought this book would be a book of short stories and relatable stories about grief, sorrow, and even introversion(with that of being an empath), but so far it’s written like a text book for a college course. I may come back to this later on, but for now it’s not the right time or book. Thus no rating.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rachel A. Dawson

    sooooo @susancainauthor is now two for two on life-changing books 🙌🏼 her book Quiet on introverts made me feel SO seen and known in a way i hadn’t known was possible, and this book did the same for my deeply-feeling, melancholy-loving, bittersweet soul. (exhibit A: there’s a bittersweet quiz and if you score above 5.7, “you’re a true connoisseur of the place where light and dark meet” …and i scored 8.6.) i could quote you pages and pages of this one, and truly, i want to, because it’s so beautifu sooooo @susancainauthor is now two for two on life-changing books 🙌🏼 her book Quiet on introverts made me feel SO seen and known in a way i hadn’t known was possible, and this book did the same for my deeply-feeling, melancholy-loving, bittersweet soul. (exhibit A: there’s a bittersweet quiz and if you score above 5.7, “you’re a true connoisseur of the place where light and dark meet” …and i scored 8.6.) i could quote you pages and pages of this one, and truly, i want to, because it’s so beautiful and helpful and meaningful and transformational. seen, and known. if you’re a person who likes sad music, rainy days, art and beauty, deep emotions, nostalgia… this will be a book that resonates with you, too, i’d bet. i loved it so, so much.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    This is well researched and well documented look at hereditary guilt, longing, grief and the acceptance of our own inevitable death. And perhaps I’ve gained a bit of insight into why I shed tears so easily and for so little reason! Thanks to NetGalley and Crown Publishing Group for the ARC to read and review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: Describes the state of bittersweetness, where sadness and joy, death and life, failure and growth, longing and love intersect and how this deepens our lives and has the power to draw us together. About ten years ago, Susan Cain published Quiet, helping the extroverted world discover the power of introverts and what they bring us all. In this work, Cain explores why at least some of us like sad songs, rainy days, and react intensely to art? She helps us enter into understanding bittersweet Summary: Describes the state of bittersweetness, where sadness and joy, death and life, failure and growth, longing and love intersect and how this deepens our lives and has the power to draw us together. About ten years ago, Susan Cain published Quiet, helping the extroverted world discover the power of introverts and what they bring us all. In this work, Cain explores why at least some of us like sad songs, rainy days, and react intensely to art? She helps us enter into understanding bittersweet by telling the story of the cellist of Sarajevo, who during the worst of the shelling, appeared every day and played Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor. It is a beautiful, sad, and evocative piece that capture both the beauty of pre-war Sarajevo and the terrible loss of the war. This is bittersweet, this embrace of sadness and the longing for beauty, for something beyond our fractured existence. Holding together these seemingly disparate experiences, Cain believes is the pathway to “creativity, transcendence, and love.” Bittersweet can draw us together in the shared experience of longing for the transcendent. Cain explores the sources of our longings for the good, the true, and the beautiful, the wonder of those moments and yet their transience. She contends that it is the place of creativity. She talks about how we live with bittersweet in a world of relentless positivity whose mantra seems to be, “be happy.” She offers an insight into the mental health crisis on university campuses, where everyone has to project a put-together, perfect Instagram image of effortless perfection that no one can live up to. She contends that our understanding of bittersweet can transform workplaces, where we understand the other side of fantastic success is the risk of failure, where allowing workers to acknowledge their struggles releases them to work more freely and productively, knowing that we’re all strugglers here. The material of the third part on mortality, impermanence, and grief was the most thought-provoking for me. It is framed with the death of her brother and father from COVID-19 and the descent of her mother into dementia, a mother with whom she has had a bittersweet relationship. In between, she narrates attending RAADfest, a gathering of people into radical life extension, who are in revolt against aging and death. While Cain, like all of us would like to live longer, she doesn’t believe the pursuit of deathlessness will lead to peace and harmony, but rather the acceptance of mortality and walking together in it has the power to draw us together. She believes that the embrace of bittersweet is the way out of inherited trauma, when we face and embrace the pain in the lives of our forebears and live with gratitude for their resilience and the gifts they passed on to us. I found myself reacting in several ways to this book. One was that I recognized a strength Susan Cain has is to name what is often an inchoate sense many of us have. While her “quiz” at the beginning of the book suggests some score higher on the bittersweet scale than others, anyone who has lived enough life, or even through a pandemic grasps this tension of sorrow and wonder, of longing and hope within which we live. Cain’s genius is to name it and give the lie to the American (and often Christian) focus on being happy. Cain develops her ideas through a series of stories of travels around the world and interviews with a number of insightful people. She is a storyteller, and sometimes, it is hard to keep track of the larger story she is rendering for all the stories. Only in going back over the book for this review did I get any sense of the development of her ideas. With that, I also found the book somewhat repetitive as she makes again and again the point that bittersweet gives meaning, and creativity, love and union with others to our existence. It felt to some degree that this is the world she wanted to be so. Cain describes herself as moving from an agnosticism to something different, not exactly faith or belief in a particular conception of God. Yet it seems in the end, in an attempt to identify with universal human experience, all she can do is believe in the longing for something more. She quotes C. S. Lewis from Surprised by Joy, noting that “we have hunger because we need to eat, we have thirst because we need to drink; so if we have an ‘inconsolable longing’ that can’t be satisfied in this world, it must be because we belong to another, godly one” (pp. 53-54). Yet Lewis found the fulfillment of his longing not in longing but in God. I fear Cain’s argument is to embrace the hunger and the thirst, but not go on to where there is food and drink. I sense she believes that longing or bittersweet is its own satisfaction. I can’t help but wonder if there is a dark side to bittersweet not discussed here, the disillusionment and despair of a life of longing without finding. I found myself praying that she would find, and have the courage to accept, the “other” that she longs for.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris Boutté

    This was such a beautiful book, and I’m extremely grateful that Susan and her team sent me an early copy of this book. Susan Cain is well-known for her first book Quiet, which I was extremely late to the party on, and this book is totally different. When I first heard about Susan’s upcoming book, I was worried it’d be too similar to Paul Bloom’s latest book The Sweet Spot, but it was totally unique. As Susan explains early in this book, she’s been working on this book for years, but it’s taken a This was such a beautiful book, and I’m extremely grateful that Susan and her team sent me an early copy of this book. Susan Cain is well-known for her first book Quiet, which I was extremely late to the party on, and this book is totally different. When I first heard about Susan’s upcoming book, I was worried it’d be too similar to Paul Bloom’s latest book The Sweet Spot, but it was totally unique. As Susan explains early in this book, she’s been working on this book for years, but it’s taken a long time to write, and it was well worth it. In the book, she addresses the various forms of suffering we all deal with throughout our lives, and how we can shift our perspective on it. Through a ton of touching stories from various interviews as well as a lot of research, we learn how our suffering doesn’t have to break us. Susan dives into a ton of great topics such as grief, loss, trauma, and much more. Through the different interviews, you see how the different people found that they could be empowered by their experiences, and it helps the reader see that they aren’t alone. I also loved how she spent time with Sharon Salzberg, who is an incredible meditation teacher and author that has helped me out a ton with her work. One of the other parts of the book that I really loved was when Cain dives into the idea of the “wounded healer”, which I’ve experienced as a recovering drug addict who has worked in treatment and spends a lot of time trying to help others based on my personal experience. Throughout the book, I was comparing it to Cain’s previous book and wondering if it was as good. Finally, I realized that it’s an unfair comparison because they’re so different. It’s often difficult for an author to write something completely different from a previous smash-hit book, but Susan Cain did it, and I think Bittersweet is going to help a lot of people.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    2.5 ⭐️ I just finished this. I listened to it from start to finish in one sitting and I still don’t know what exactly the point of this book was. I normally love introspective books like this, but this one felt like a whole lot of randomness and it didn’t hit the mark for me. I guarantee I will forget the content of this entire book within a couple of weeks.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anna Snader

    This book spoke to me on a very deep level. I’ve always felt a sense of melancholy and longing in life, and have recently felt increasingly frustrated at the world’s fast paced and positive nature. But I felt affirmed when I started reading this book. It’s okay to feel sad, and to feel loss, nostalgia, and grief. It’s okay to not be okay all the time. I loved this book because I felt like this book was written for me and all the other highly sensitive people in the world. We all long for somethi This book spoke to me on a very deep level. I’ve always felt a sense of melancholy and longing in life, and have recently felt increasingly frustrated at the world’s fast paced and positive nature. But I felt affirmed when I started reading this book. It’s okay to feel sad, and to feel loss, nostalgia, and grief. It’s okay to not be okay all the time. I loved this book because I felt like this book was written for me and all the other highly sensitive people in the world. We all long for something. What do you long for?

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jerrie

    DNF - just seems random.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I was a massive fan of Quiet so I was eager to read this one as my BOTM selection. Unfortunately it didn't live up to Quiet. The subject was intriguing, and I felt that parts of it spoke to my life outlook. (As a child I used to cry myself to sleep because I wished to be a martyr when I grew up like the Catholic saints I enjoyed reading about.) I felt like this concept of bittersweetness was not as easily explained as introversion was in quiet. The chapters were bit inconsistent, some of them we I was a massive fan of Quiet so I was eager to read this one as my BOTM selection. Unfortunately it didn't live up to Quiet. The subject was intriguing, and I felt that parts of it spoke to my life outlook. (As a child I used to cry myself to sleep because I wished to be a martyr when I grew up like the Catholic saints I enjoyed reading about.) I felt like this concept of bittersweetness was not as easily explained as introversion was in quiet. The chapters were bit inconsistent, some of them were definitely compelling and interesting while others were less developed and less relevant to me. The text is really only about 240 pages with about 100 pages worth of notes and index. Definitely an interesting concept. I'm intrigued with other areas she may research and write about in the future.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    I found my place in the world, truly. Everything about this book helps me understand so much about why bittersweet has always played such a large role in my life. I will read this book again, again and possibly again. Thanks to my friend, JBE for sending me the book i needed at the time i needed it!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tabby

    The first half was wonderful and I was seriously thinking this might become one of my top five "personal improvement" titles but then PART TWO. Part two took all the things learned about how to heal, inspire, unite, and uplift people and bible study style went "now how can this apply at the office" for ceos to exploit workers with and spent a long time talking about scammy self help conferences. I guess this explained how all the studies referenced in part 1 got funded, obviously we could never The first half was wonderful and I was seriously thinking this might become one of my top five "personal improvement" titles but then PART TWO. Part two took all the things learned about how to heal, inspire, unite, and uplift people and bible study style went "now how can this apply at the office" for ceos to exploit workers with and spent a long time talking about scammy self help conferences. I guess this explained how all the studies referenced in part 1 got funded, obviously we could never have researched such beautiful things for a good reason, only to further emotionally abuse workers and wring a few more drops of our lifeforce out into the shareholders' bank accounts. It's not enough that worker productivity in the US has SKYROCKETED since genx and millennials filled the workforce, that despite our exponentially larger output we have a tiny fraction of the national wealth share boomers did at the same age. Not good enough that we already work so much harder for so much less- gotta research further ways to capitalize on our fucking souls.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chris LaTray

    I started out listening to the free audio version and was really into it, such that I ordered the physical copy because I was certain I would want to get back to it. But then it all went largely awry for me and I'm not sure even what I initially loved about it. I can relate to sorry and longing ... but somewhere along the way, as Cain repeatedly name drops her famous friends, and jet sets from one expensive "retreat" to the next affordable by only the uber wealthy, I lost my ability to relate to I started out listening to the free audio version and was really into it, such that I ordered the physical copy because I was certain I would want to get back to it. But then it all went largely awry for me and I'm not sure even what I initially loved about it. I can relate to sorry and longing ... but somewhere along the way, as Cain repeatedly name drops her famous friends, and jet sets from one expensive "retreat" to the next affordable by only the uber wealthy, I lost my ability to relate to it. Not my people, not a book for me.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Steph Elias

    I loved this book. I am a bittersweet type through and through and this book really hit home for me. I enjoyed reading more about why things are the way they are, why some of us cry at sappy commercials or rainy days. It helped me to really realize I am not alone, there are plenty of other folks like me. The writing was fantastic and flowed smoothly from one chapter to the next.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Neil Pasricha

    Susan’s first book Quiet came out nearly a decade ago and has stuck on bestseller lists pretty much since then. Together with her famous TED Talk “The Power of Introverts” Susan gave rising voice, power, and language to a new movement. And now ... she does it again. Susan spent years tackling the ephemeral idea of what it means to hold a bittersweet outlook on life. “Why do I crank Leonard Cohen songs in college?” to “Why do people love sad movies?” to “How do we transcend 'enforced positivity' Susan’s first book Quiet came out nearly a decade ago and has stuck on bestseller lists pretty much since then. Together with her famous TED Talk “The Power of Introverts” Susan gave rising voice, power, and language to a new movement. And now ... she does it again. Susan spent years tackling the ephemeral idea of what it means to hold a bittersweet outlook on life. “Why do I crank Leonard Cohen songs in college?” to “Why do people love sad movies?” to “How do we transcend 'enforced positivity' in some workplaces?” to “Should we try to ‘get over’ grief and impermanence?”, the book is a feast for curiosity junkies as it navigates the world through Susan’s unique lens. Every paragraph feels almost wholly fresh and while the chapters are strung along iteratively you can jump back and forth between ones that may catch your eye without losing place. Although Susan’s books may casually get places in “Business” they’re really almost genre-less – sort of Jon Ronson-buddy-beside-you-on-the-bus-style – and you simply open the book and ride along as she moves from person to person, place to place, study to study to slowly peel open the onion. The book begins with a Bittersweet Quiz where you find out where you sit on the concept of bittersweetness – described as ‘a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy when beholding beauty.’ With our culture careening forward at an increasingly frenetic pace and echo chambers become dizzying it can be easy to lose touch with subtler or heavier emotions we feel inside but don't see reflected in our algorithmic feeds. This book gives shape to so many of the deeper stirrings of the soul. Check out her newly released TED Talk "The hidden power of sad songs and rainy days" for a teaser. I highly recommend this book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kerry (lines i underline)

    4.0⭐️ This study of how we can understand and harness melancholy and longing in our lives was inspiring and thought-provoking. It was quite sweeping in scope for a short book. I appreciated how Cain wove aspects of her own life story into this work - this personalized and rooted the many different elements she explored. As someone who scores probably almost a 10/10 on the bittersweet personality quiz, it was affirming and helpful to read about how this way of seeing and being in the world can be 4.0⭐️ This study of how we can understand and harness melancholy and longing in our lives was inspiring and thought-provoking. It was quite sweeping in scope for a short book. I appreciated how Cain wove aspects of her own life story into this work - this personalized and rooted the many different elements she explored. As someone who scores probably almost a 10/10 on the bittersweet personality quiz, it was affirming and helpful to read about how this way of seeing and being in the world can be viewed in a more positive light. Lines I underlined: “Longing is momentum in disguise.” “The place you suffer is the same place you care profoundly.” “Everything is broken. Everything is beautiful. Everything, including love.” “And for all of us, no matter our domain, there’s the simple prescription to turn in the direction of beauty.”

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hayley

    This one was probably quite therapeutic for the author to write as it seemed rather personal in parts but it missed the mark for me. A case where the concept of the book worked better than the execution.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kaeleigh Reynolds

    Kinda felt like Pisces 101 so I’m not sure I learned many new things, but validating for a VERY sensitive person who collected tea bag quotes and Dove chocolate wrappers as a kid to collage my bedroom wall. 🫣

  29. 5 out of 5

    David

    I knew going into Cain’s Quiet, as an analytical introvert, that it was the book for me, and yet I was so enriched by its content. In this case, I have long gravitated to the melancholy, but maybe it was truly an appreciation of the bittersweet. Somewhere in act two, the following Jason Lee quote from the underrated Vanilla Sky popped into my mind…”Just remember the sweet is never as sweet without the sour, and I know the sour. You can do whatever you want with your life, but on day you’ll know w I knew going into Cain’s Quiet, as an analytical introvert, that it was the book for me, and yet I was so enriched by its content. In this case, I have long gravitated to the melancholy, but maybe it was truly an appreciation of the bittersweet. Somewhere in act two, the following Jason Lee quote from the underrated Vanilla Sky popped into my mind…”Just remember the sweet is never as sweet without the sour, and I know the sour. You can do whatever you want with your life, but on day you’ll know what love truly is. It’s the sour and the sweet.” I also immediately find my mind drifting to my 90s bittersweet symphony (apologies to The Verve) of Mazzy Star, Portishead, and The Sundays. And Chapter 3 with Min and her Strat was a mindblower.

  30. 4 out of 5

    swalterich

    I an not entirely sure, after reading this book, what the main point of it was. Oh, I know what the author thinks it was—because she tells you on practically every other page how beneficial it is to be bitter and sweet. The problem is that I don’t believe, despite tons of ‘research’ and info, that she really proves it. Why is it good? Because it’s what you are and just like being an introvert, it must be a good thing? Particularly did not understand why the whole chapter on immortalists. Overall I an not entirely sure, after reading this book, what the main point of it was. Oh, I know what the author thinks it was—because she tells you on practically every other page how beneficial it is to be bitter and sweet. The problem is that I don’t believe, despite tons of ‘research’ and info, that she really proves it. Why is it good? Because it’s what you are and just like being an introvert, it must be a good thing? Particularly did not understand why the whole chapter on immortalists. Overall did not meet my expectations.

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