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Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life of Shyness

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  210 ratings  ·  32 reviews
A deeply perceptive and beautifully written cultural history of shyness, from one of our most astute observers of the everyday

Shyness is a pervasive human trait: even most extroverts know what it is like to stand tongue-tied at the fringe of an unfamiliar group or flush with embarrassment at being the unwelcome center of attention. And yet the cultural history of shyness
Paperback, 280 pages
Published February 27th 2018 by Yale University Press (first published January 7th 2016)
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3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  210 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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Peter Boyle
"I am the son and the heir/Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar"

Being a shy person myself, I was drawn to the subject of this book. In an entertaining study, Joe Moran traces the origins of shyness throughout history, an issue which has afflicted a surprising number of high-achieving cultural figures. He doesn't try to solve the problem of being shy, but his stories of people who are "interestingly and idiosyncratically shy" make it a comforting read for anyone who suffers from the condition.

Murray Ewing
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Moran’s book is “a field guide, a collective biography and a necessarily elliptical history of the shy”. It’s something of a wander through a series of lives lived with that “multilayered and unsummarisable condition”, “the sense of an emotional life both bottled up and brimming over”, and takes in a wide variety of people, from English nobles (one of whom built a whole series of tunnels beneath his estates so he could go for walks without the fear of encountering anyone), army generals and poli ...more
Kate Vane
I’m a little disappointed in this book. It’s full of anecdotes and observations but I don’t feel I’m any further forward in understanding what shyness is.

The vignettes chosen by the author seem to conflate introversion, social anxiety, autism, mental illness, rebellion and plain eccentricity. He says that we can all be shy in different contexts but focuses on ‘shy’ individuals or groups. He touches briefly on cultural aspects of shyness, how in some societies it is seen as positive and in other

The Case for Shyness
Joe Moran’s book Shrinking Violets is a sweeping history that doubles as a (quiet) defense of timidity.
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Joe Moran has spent his life trying to get to grips with his shyness. In this Field Guide to Shyness, he explores the hidden world of reticence, navigating the myriad ways scientists and thinkers have tried to explain and cure shyness, and uncovering the fascinating stories of the men and women who were 'of the violet persuasion'.

"It feels like coming late to a party when everyone else is about three beers in and entering that state that allows them to have fl
Bernard O'Leary
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not really a field guide at all, just a rambling collection of anecdotes about shy people through the ages. Some nice stories though.
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this. Informative and easy to read from the outset. Inspiring and reassuring to know that others have suffered and suffer with shyness in ways similar or far more extreme have I have in my life. Really good to have included a mixed bag of real life shyness sufferers too, from Lowry to Morrissey to Bobby Charlton. A perfect companion to Susan Cain's Quiet.
Rob Adey
Oct 17, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Very strange route into 'shyness', being mostly a look at a small sample of people who were mostly relatively famous and/or wealthy, almost all writers, and almost all male. What's more, pretty much all of them were suffering from a shyness so marked that even the most wary of the careless medicalisation personality traits would have them off down the chemist for a quarter-pound of diazepam. I think I'd have preferred a treatment closer to that which one of the subjects here, Oliver Sacks, might ...more
Oct 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The subtitle of the edition I read was "A field guide to shyness" which describes this book well. Aspects of shyness covered include stage fright and embarrassment. The stories of famous shy people such as Bobby Charlton, Charles de Gaulle and Charles Schultz are fascinating. The author is obviously a Morrissey fan as the section on him is particularly well written, and he outs himself as a shy person. Worth a read whether you count yourself as shy or not.
May 11, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: can-t-keep-going
I just found it...boring. And dry. Just unengaging. I was jazzed by the title and hoped it would be more of a memoir of sorts. (It proclaims to be a field guide, so I should've known going in it wouldn't be a memoir.)
Nov 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Less about shyness than about people who were shy throughout their lives - but I found it fascinating anyway. Would have enjoyed a little more about the pathology and origin of shyness, though
erin | colourhergone
Science jargon, no matter how relevant or relatable it is, is made all the easier to digest when the writer relaying said science is as charming as author Joe Moran.

In Shrinking Violets: A Field Guide to Shyness, Joe Moran makes the point that shyness isn’t just about being ‘shy’. Shyness comes in many shapes and forms, and it affects different people in different ways. And it’s that sentiment which feels like the moral behind Moran’s ‘field guide’; that while shyness is common, it can’t be easi
Peter Geyer
It's hard to know how to rate this book, stars or shelves. There are moments of insight and pages of turgidity, for this shy reader, anyway.

What's it about. Well, Jo Moran is an English academic who admits to being shy, something he never really clearly defines, which leads to both trouble and also raises queries about the category.

His method is to mix some personal revelations about his difficulties in this area, some of which I share (which was very helpful) and others I do not, and provide t
Pete Welter
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shrinking Violets is about shyness its many forms and manifestations.

The majority of the narrative is composed of mini-biographical sketches of various historical and recent figures who encountered problems with social situations, often several bios to each chapter. With this, he mixes in his own personal observations on being a shy person. Because of this, the books shifts focus often and wanders about somewhat, a style that some readers enjoy, but that I'm personally not as fond of. He also te
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a lovely book; much like it's subject matter, it's unassuming and shows hidden depths. It can be really tempting to take something that personally impacts you (as shyness does the author) and make something that aims to spin or justify or exaggerate (I'm looking at you Susan Cain and your book on introverts...). This isn't the case here, instead the author delves into the history of shyness (which is very absorbing!), case studies of famous shy people and the push against shyness. I like ...more
4.25 stars. Fascinating anecdotes, biographies, histories and insights on the culture and afflictions surrounding shyness.

“We are becoming a culture of semi-absent citizens, ‘alone together,’ since even when in public our faces are buried in our cellphones and tablets, headphones cushioning us from other people’s noise and our glances turned downwards to converse with friends elsewhere via those dancing thumbs on our touchscreens. This new machine age allows us to relate to each other in amount
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book very insightful. I am a shy individual at heart and really have to force myself to fit into an extrovert world. It's exhausting some days and it's always nice to return home when I can relax and not interact with others! Its not that I don't like others, it's just hard to be on all the time. Loved all the stories and theories, they were interesting! Anyone one who is shy, or knows someone who is ought to read this book to better understand themselves or others. Greta book! Easy ...more
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Does what it says on the tin – a cultural contextualisation of shyness. Skews very much to the English speaking world (given the very eclectic nature of the book, this stands out) but nonetheless very interesting. The author's idiosyncratic approach to the subject helps.

Very much an anti-self help book (which is refreshing in itself: I'm getting fed up of sweeping sociological studies that claim to be able to change the world) but even so strangely reassuring. It is very easy to get lost in the
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Was looking for another "Quiet" but this was more an examination of different aspects of shyness such as stage fright, shy artists through accounts of different historical figures. Some readily known such as Agatha Christie and Morrisey, and some less. Not much in the way of science and the author would occasionally interject their own opinions or experience which I felt like interrupted the flow a bit but otherwise an OK read.
Aug 24, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was bored to tears at times reading this book, it just didn't capture my attention at all. Only reason it got 2 stars is because of the first chapter, where some of the authors personal experiences were highly relatable for me, so I thought it might help me find more answers and information. I was wrong.
Kristie Saumure
This book didn't really work for me. I felt like I was simply reading a series of snippets about people in history who were shy. I didn't feel like the pieces came together to form a whole thesis about shyness.
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Awesome book, it’s different than I expected - more of a wandering exploration of shyness that an academic exercise. And hilarious in parts. Worth it if only for the brief story of how Morrissey came to be.
Jan 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
A lot of research went into this book. It is kind of a history of shyness and of public figures who are shy and how they dealt with it. I was mainly interested in the information about blushing - it is fascinating how our body responds to situations.
Interesting and thought provoking if you are shy artist
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
“My war with shyness has ended in an uneasy truce.”

Relatable, thought provoking and often down right funny.
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Only a shy person would enjoy this book...I am, and I did.
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life of Shyness by Joe Moran is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late December, not long before Christmas.

Moran acknowledges his own shyness, while viewing it as a positive, rather than as a character flaw, a continuum of confounding self-imposed solitude, or a fear of excessive emotionality. People who experience shyness (i.e. Agatha Christie, Oliver Sacks, Morrissey) may pursue a hobby, an unlikely career path, or a way of filtering the ill effects of shyness
Aliya Whiteley
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Because this is presented as a collection of shy lives, detailing case by case how so many great thinkers suffered with fear of social embarrassment, it had an interesting effect on me. I started out feeling reassured that it was a common factor in so many lives, and ended up feeling despondent that none of them really overcame it. Each struggle against loneliness and embarrassment stands separately, and lasts a lifetime. Then the author goes on to the next person, and the next, and the next... ...more
Skyler Stevens
rated it really liked it
Jun 17, 2017
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“ناراحتی ناشی از خجالتی‌بودن یه مسئله واقعیه و کمک به دیگران برای رفع این ناراحتی یه هدف شرافتمندانه است. ولی مصرف دارو برای اضطراب اجتماعی - برای این احساس که احمق، کسالت آور یا دوست نداشتنی هستیم - مثل فریاد زدن در باد یا جلوی باران ایستادن می‌مونه. مثل این می‌مونه که بخواهید برای زنده‌بودن درمانی پیدا کنید.” 0 likes
“من تصمیم گرفتم که بپذیرم، به قول توسعه‌دهنده‌های نرم‌افزار، که خجالتی بودن یه ویژگیه نه یه باگ.” 0 likes
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