Bittersweet (Oprah's Book Club)
How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • Sadness is your superpower. In her new masterpiece, the author of the bestselling phenomenon Quiet explores the power of the bittersweet personality, revealing a misunderstood side of mental health and creativity while offering a roadmap to facing grief in order to live life to the fullest.
“Bittersweet has the power to transform the way you see your life and the world.”—OPRAH
“Grabs you by the heart and doesn’t let go.”—BRENÉ BROWN, author of Atlas of the Heart
“Susan Cain has described and validated my existence once again!”—GLENNON DOYLE, author of Untamed
“The perfect cure for toxic positivity.”—ADAM GRANT, author of Think Again
LONGLISTED FOR THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Wall Street Journal, Mashable
Bittersweetness is a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy at the beauty of the world. It recognizes that light and dark, birth and death—bitter and sweet—are forever paired.
If you’ve ever wondered why you like sad music . . .
If you find comfort or inspiration in a rainy day . . .
If you react intensely to music, art, nature, and beauty . . .
Then you probably identify with the bittersweet state of mind.
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 how embracing the bittersweetness at the heart of life is the true path to creativity, connection, and transcendence.
Cain shows how a bittersweet state of mind is the quiet force that helps us transcend our personal and collective pain, whether from a death or breakup, addiction or illness. If we don’t acknowledge our own heartache, she says, we can end up inflicting it 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 one another.
At a time of profound discord and personal anxiety, Bittersweet brings us together in deep and unexpected ways.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
When author Susan Cain was in college, she wondered why Leonard Cohen’s saddest songs made her feel so happy and alive. Decades later, she takes a deep dive into why melancholy can feel so right. Cain—the author of the best-selling Quiet, an ode to introversion—uses cutting-edge science, fascinating examples from history, spiritual philosophy, and art criticism to explore how beauty and sadness are inextricably bound. As with Quiet, Bittersweet also has elements of memoir. In one particularly powerful chapter, Cain attends a convention for people seeking the secret to immortality while she mourns the loss of two family members and her mother’s worsening dementia, adding a deeply revealing and personal edge to the intersection of joy and sorrow, especially when it comes to the idea that even good things must end. Cain’s friendly, conversational tone makes even the headiest passages feel totally understandable. Even if you’re not the melancholy sort yourself, Bittersweet can help everyone embrace occasional wistfulness.
Business consultant Cain (Quiet) returns with an eye-opening take on the underestimated virtues of melancholy. She suggests that bittersweetness "a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy at the beauty of the world" affords the opportunity to channel "pain into creativity, transcendence, and love," as exemplified by musicians and other artists. Cain handily traverses fields as diverse as neuroscience, popular music, religion, and business management to find instances of the transformation of pain and longing into fulfillment: the music of Leonard Cohen, for example, is "a transcendence delivery system," and in Michigan, a hospital billing department's culture of caring for distressed or bereaved employees resulted in collecting bills faster. Though Cain's panoramic scope covers some familiar ground (U.S. culture's "tyranny of positivity" has been critiqued before), this ambitious work impresses in its dexterous integration of disparate thought traditions into a cohesive, moving, and insightful whole. Like a more intuitive Malcolm Gladwell, Cain delivers a deeply felt study of the profound uses of sorrow and melancholy, a perfect manual for coping with tough times. Agent: Richard Pine, InkWell Management
I’ve never connected with a book so much. I’m sure to reference it again as a constant reminder how to transcend suffering to help someone else. Thank you for your empathic insight.
This book is a non-negotiable read.
Another great book
Bittersweet is such a great and insightful book. Highly recommended.