Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life of Shyness. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017.


Shrinking Violets: A Field Guide to Shyness. London: Profile, 2016.

Armchair Nation: An Intimate History of Britain in Front of the TV. London: Profile, 2013.


On Roads: A Hidden History. London: Profile, 2009.


Queueing cover

Queuing for Beginners: The Story of Daily Life from Breakfast to Bedtime. London: Profile, 2007.



Reading the Everyday. London and New York: Routledge, 2005.



Interdisciplinarity, London and New York: Routledge, 2002 [revised ed. 2010].

star authors

Star Authors: Literary Celebrity in America. London and Sterling, VA: Pluto Press, 2000.

8 thoughts on “Books

  1. Hello Joe, I would like to congratulate for your latest book on shyness. I found it really interesting and of a real sensitive depth into the inner turmoils of shy ones. As a Frenchman, I thank for what you wrote on our former grand homme d’État that was Charles de Gaulle. I don’t remember having read such a great piece on the man himself, and not the Stateman. It touched me a lot, as well as all the other stories you presented with care and fascination. Your book helped me I think overcome some difficulties, or at least better rationalize the human relations and my stand in interacting with others. Again, kuddos for your hard work, I’ll be sure to keep so many clever references in mind.
    I sincerely wish you the best.
    Bien à vous M. Moran,


    • Hi Maxime
      thanks so much for reading the book and for taking the trouble to write these very kind words. Particularly pleased you liked the de Gaulle section!
      In shy solidarity
      kind regards


  2. Hi Joe,
    I first came across your latest book by way of an article in The Guardian last year. I was sitting in a cafe in Brighton, on my own. I had driven down there to see The Wedding Present’s At The Edge Of The Sea mini festival, on my own. It seemed rather fitting to be reading about your book on shyness in that situation.

    I loved the book, especially where you talked about your own shyness. I found I had been on a similar journey to yourself, though was perhaps was a bit stuck on being secretly proud of my own shyness and the excuse it gave me for refusing to go to parties, or get togethers or work do’s. The most revelatory point was though, your admission that sometimes your shyness was contrary, it would suddenly, almost inexplicably show itself. This was the point I could not explain to my now ex-partner. How, she would say, could you be perfectly affable and good company with such and such friends just a few weeks ago, and now not want to go and see them? I couldn’t for the life of me justify it. And in hindsight it’s probably this that she found impossible to deal with, and perhaps is the thing the non-afflicted most have trouble with.

    I now feel much more at home in my skin, and accepting of what I am, and am not. I’m trying hard to ditch the secret liking of being shy. And am also much more open with people and honest about being shy. I’ve always struggled with making friends (as opposed to work colleagues or just people I know) but have found my new openness has struck a chord with a work colleague and we share thoughts and feelings in a most refreshing and interesting way (it turns out other people have anxieties and insecurities too…)

    Alan Bennett has a paragraph in one of his diaries (and puts it in the mouth of Richard Griffiths’ character in The History Boys) where he says the best part about reading is where you come across something, a thought or feeling you had felt peculiar to yourself, written down by someone else, and they’ve expressed it in a way that perfectly synthesises your thoughts, and it’s a wonderful moment. The best compliment I can give you is that Shrinking Violets gave me lots of those moments.

    Best wishes,
    Mark Carroll


    • hi Mark
      What a lovely message! A lovely start to my day. Thanks so much for reading the book and for these very kind words about it. I’m really glad you got something out of the book and it was helpful to you.
      very best wishes


  3. Hi Joe
    I’m reading “On Roads” at the moment. I used to be a transport planner but was struck down by chronic fatigue syndrome. Years later and largely functional again I am now doing a course in contemporary fine art. I find it both surprising and enriching to find a book that straddles both fields. I love finding the extraordinary in the ordinary and having my eyes opened afresh. I look forward to reading some of your other books.
    Thank you for existing Joe and for doing what you do.
    Very best wishes
    Tor Sowter


  4. I loved your book on Failure. And your book on TV. What happened to Lionel Bart? Those incredible songs in Oliver then nothing. He reminds me of Malcolm Allison. Great before the World Cup 1970. Never won a thing after it. He became ‘Big Mal’ and he lost his focus. That panel were really something on ITV in 1970. Check out Jimmy Hill’s cravat on YouTube and David Tossell’s biography ‘Big Mal’. They believe their own hype and the magic goes.


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