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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 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.

310 pages, Hardcover

First published April 5, 2022

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About the author

Susan Cain

19 books24k followers
“QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” was released in January, 2012, from Crown Publishers in the U.S., and from Viking/Penguin in the U.K. Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts was released in May, 2016 from Dial Books in the U.S., and from Penguin Life in the U.K. "BITTERSWEET: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole" has been released in the U.S. and U.K.

Please visit - SusanCain.net
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SUSAN CAIN is the author of the bestsellers Quiet Journal, Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts, and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking, which has been translated into 40 languages, is in its seventh year on the New York Times best seller list, and was named the #1 best book of the year by Fast Company magazine, which also named Cain one of its Most Creative People in Business. Her latest masterpiece, BITTERSWEET: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole, was released in the US on April 5, 2022 (international editions are forthcoming).

LinkedIn named her the 6th Top Influencer in the world. Susan has partnered with Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant and Dan Pink to launch the Next Big Idea Book Club and they donate all their proceeds to children’s literacy programs.

Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. Her record-smashing TED talk has been viewed over 40 million times on TED.com and YouTube combined, and was named by Bill Gates one of his all-time favorite talks.

Cain has also spoken at Microsoft, Google, the U.S. Treasury, the S.E.C., Harvard, Yale, West Point and the US Naval Academy. She received Harvard Law School’s Celebration Award for Thought Leadership, the Toastmasters International Golden Gavel Award for Communication and Leadership, and was named one of the world’s top 50 Leadership and Management Experts by Inc. Magazine. She is an honors graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School. She lives in the Hudson River Valley with her husband and two sons.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,051 reviews
February 18, 2023
**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

Nominated in the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Nonfiction! Now an Oprah’s Book Club pick!
Profile Image for Rachel  L.
1,828 reviews2,189 followers
July 14, 2022
I genuinely feel like Susan Cain is overrated. I read Quiet last year after many recommendation and it was okay, but I wanted to give her another chance and thought this would be interesting subject matter. It felt like instead of a cohesive book, a bunch of ramblings on why it’s okay to be sad. And that’s okay, that’s fine. But most of what she presented in this book felt like common sense to me? Not sure how else to explain it. I just wasn’t amused or impressed while listening to this book.

That being said, there were a few people in my life that I felt would gain something by reading this book even if I didn’t, so if you read my review and it makes you not want to read the book maybe don’t listen to me and try it for yourself. Everyone has different tastes and I can see others loving this book.
Profile Image for Deborah.
582 reviews1 follower
April 9, 2022
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.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews28 followers
April 16, 2022
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)..,..
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
Profile Image for Kerrin .
293 reviews230 followers
June 13, 2022
At times this was interesting and insightful, but ultimately forgettable.
Profile Image for Brian Larson.
290 reviews12 followers
April 9, 2022
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).
Profile Image for Katharine Pelican.
83 reviews57 followers
April 27, 2022
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.
Profile Image for Brandice.
860 reviews
January 2, 2023
After loving Quiet by Susan Cain years ago, I was excited to learn she had a new book coming out in 2022. I bought Bittersweet right away in the spring, but didn’t actually read it until December, a great example of reading the right book at the right time.

I enjoyed listening to this audiobook, read by Susan herself — The book’s theme is “how sorrow and longing make us whole.” Why do we sometimes enjoy seemingly sad things? What can we take from this bittersweet feeling?

Bittersweet is the type of book where different aspects will resonate differently with everyone. There were a lot of things I liked including the ideas of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), which can be practiced on your own, and expressive writing:

“ACT, as it's known, teaches people to embrace their thoughts and feelings, including the difficult ones: to see them as appropriate responses to the challenges of being alive, and of their own particular hardships. But it also teaches us to use our pain as a source of information about what matters most to us- and then to act on it. ACT, in other words, is an invitation to investigate the bitter, and commit to the sweet.”

"Expressive writing encourages us to see our misfortunes not as flaws … but as the seeds of our growth. Pennebaker found that the writers who thrived after pouring their hearts onto the page tended to use phrases such as "I've learned," "It struck me that,” “I now realize,” and "I understand." They didn't come to enjoy their misfortunes. But they'd learned to live with insight.”

I appreciate Bittersweet’s acknowledgement in that experiences (good or bad) can change us and that truly understanding we all share loss and pain at some point can be helpful.
Profile Image for Bharath.
596 reviews450 followers
November 10, 2022
I am a huge fan of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, as I believe it was ground-breaking with very new perspectives and insights. Getting into this, I did know that it would not be easy to match up to her first work – and that was right. Viewed in isolation, this book is beautiful too, though not anywhere as path-breaking.

Susan Cain kicks off the concept the book explores by asking the question “Why do we feel drawn to sad and haunting music”? She refers to Leonard Cohen, who I am not familiar with, but I understood what she was trying to convey. There are many haunting tunes which pop into my head often. While popular culture, especially in the West, emphasizes joy and happiness, it is important to recognize that it is when we have the contrast that life is complete. Longing, sorrow, pain complete the experience. She turns to examples in Sufism – which she came across in researching the book. That this was unfamiliar territory for her shows though – while the content is adequate for the theme of the book, it comes across as somewhat superficial. She also explores the treatment of pain in various cultures and religious traditions including Buddhism and Hinduism.

Permanent happiness is not a worthy goal, and neither is pursuit of warped yardsticks of success at work. She turns to some personal examples – she quit her job after she introspected when passed over for promotion - was she was really happy at her job? She also discusses the pain of seeing her mother’s Alzheimer’s worsening gradually.

In summary, Susan Cain advocates acceptance – a concept already very well discussed in mindfulness literature (she also refers to Sharon Salzberg’s teachings in the book). Though conceptually the book does not cover new ground, with her story-telling ability it does serve to mainstream and amplify some wise & important teachings. I also found it to be very honest including many real-life examples.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Susan Cain herself and it was very good.
Profile Image for Kris Patrick.
1,498 reviews72 followers
April 14, 2022
I’ll be bold. This book didn’t say much of anything.
Profile Image for Becca.
538 reviews15 followers
April 19, 2022

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. 😊
Profile Image for Sarah.
83 reviews1,556 followers
January 11, 2023
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.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,608 reviews2,581 followers
June 4, 2023
Cain’s Quiet must be one of the best-known nonfiction books of the millennium. It felt like vindication for introverts everywhere. Bittersweet is a little more nebulous in strategy but, boiled down, is a defence of the melancholic personality, one of the types identified by Aristotle (also explored in Richard Holloway’s The Heart of Things). Sadness is not the same as clinical depression, Cain rushes to clarify, though the two might coexist. Melancholy is often associated with creativity and sensitivity, and can lead us into empathy for others. Suffering and death seem like things to flee, but if we sit with them, we will truly be part of the human race and, per the “wounded healer” archetype, may also work toward restoration.

A love for minor-key music, especially songs by Leonard Cohen, is what initially drew Cain to this topic, but there are other autobiographical seeds: the deaths of many ancestors, including her rabbi grandfather’s entire family, in the Holocaust; her difficult relationship with her controlling mother, who now has dementia; and the deaths from Covid of both her brother, a hospital doctor, and her elderly father in 2020.

Through interviews and attendance at conferences and other events, she draws in various side topics, like the longing that prompts mysticism (Kabbalah and Sufism), loving-kindness meditation, an American culture of positivity that demands “effortless perfection,” ways the business world could cultivate empathy, and how knowledge of death makes life precious. (The only chapter I found less than essential was one about transhumance – the hope of escaping death altogether. Mark O’Connell (To Be a Machine) has that topic covered.) Cain weaves together her research with autobiographical material naturally. As a shy introvert with melancholy tendencies, I found both Quiet and Bittersweet comforting.

Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.
Profile Image for Bob.
1,857 reviews621 followers
April 28, 2022
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.
Profile Image for Erika.
29 reviews
January 19, 2022
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.

Profile Image for Rachel | All the RAD Reads.
995 reviews1,087 followers
June 23, 2022
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.
Profile Image for Howard.
1,182 reviews73 followers
April 15, 2022
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.
Profile Image for Joachim Stoop.
732 reviews484 followers
July 5, 2022
I wouldn't say this is a bad book, but rather that it is failed.
First of all: I loved Cains previous book 'Quiet' and of course that raised my expectations.
Second: I consider myself a person who both suffers from and adores 'bittersweet' moments in life,
so I did recognize the feeling and term.

The problem with this book is twofold:
- the majority of the themes, examples, ideas merely evoked a 'duh' and a 'yeah, what's new' and a 'yes, this is part of common life, we know that. It's logic.' Of course you turn pain into creativity and evidently sadness and happiness, grief and longing go often hand in hand. The only real new thing is putting all these cherries into one basket and calling them 'bittersweet'. As a result, the ideas felt both farfetched and trivial. And sometimes horribly pseudo-scientific and pseudo-philosophical.

- in all of the recognizable moments where bittersweet feelings are described as reaching to the core (of your heart, existence, universe, memory, (self)love, etc.) I, oh irony, don't want them to be described. If I yearn and long and am blown away by Pink Floyd's Echoes, Richard Linkalters Before trilogy or the ending of Richard Powers' Time of our singing, I want to stay as far away as possible of naming or describing this most powerful emotion. I can maybe tell you why I love these, but not what they do to me. It is precisely where science, religion or even language cannot reach, thank god! So I don't want it stamped with 'bittersweet' or explained on a mental or (pseudo-) psychological level.
Profile Image for Rachel Hanes.
489 reviews176 followers
May 10, 2022
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.
Profile Image for Chris Boutté.
Author 8 books151 followers
January 31, 2022
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.
Profile Image for Anita Yoder.
Author 6 books52 followers
January 9, 2023
This was probably my read of the year. Cain's stories of others and her own made this a relatable, human, vulnerable read, and not merely a scientific, analytical approach to living well.
She often references CS Lewis and his definition of joy, and settles in companionably to persuade us that no joy is unmixed with pain.
Cain writes as an agnostic, so she doesn't go as far as to say that knowing God is our deepest joy, which is what the Christian worldview holds. And she reaches toward but rarely, if ever, uses words like "paradox" or "redemption" but I heard those concepts loud and assuringly all throughout.
Profile Image for Negar Afsharmanesh.
244 reviews27 followers
April 4, 2023
قضاوت و حتی تنبیه می‌کنیم. جامعه نیز ما را تشویق می‌کند که تا می‌توانیم شاد باشیم و روی مثبت زندگی را ببینیم، اما چطور می‌توانیم در جامعه‌ای که اندوه و اشتیاق را نادیده می‌گیرد، سالم‌تر زندگی کنیم؟
این کتاب به ما یاد میده غم و اندوه زندگی خودمون رو اول بفهمیم و درکشون کنیم و بعد بپذیریمشون، چیزی که فکر کنم آلان هممون توی جامعه امون داریمش غم و غصه و درد…
این کتاب به ما یاد میده این درد و غم مارو توی حالت انفعال نگه نداره و بتونیم از این درد و رنج استفاده کنیم در جهت هدف مشترکی که فکر کنم همه میخوایم بهش برسیم،
Profile Image for Linda.
1,118 reviews61 followers
March 25, 2022
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.
Profile Image for Jerrie.
986 reviews130 followers
May 21, 2022
DNF - just seems random.
Profile Image for Anna Snader.
198 reviews27 followers
April 10, 2022
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?
Profile Image for Hayley.
852 reviews18 followers
May 25, 2022
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.
Profile Image for Chris LaTray.
Author 12 books90 followers
May 22, 2022
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.
Profile Image for Allie.
567 reviews180 followers
October 11, 2022
susan cain dives into an in-depth study of poignancy and the tearing emotions in this deeply intriguing book. it felt like i was reading a research study as opposed to a “self-help” book and part of me likes it but part of me also wished it highlighted how sorrow and longing truly makes us whole rather than dissecting the perspectives of philosophers from all over the century. overall, a great read. highly recommending it to those interested in the philosophy of emotions! 💌
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